Hampstead Grief

I am proud to say that many of my movie reviews appear on the website of The Light Cinema, both locally and across the country. However, I don’t think they will be posting this one.

With the cinema in mind, I usually try to find something positive to say about a film (see my Baywatch review for example), but even from the most generous perspective, I cannot find anything good to say about the Hampstead.

As a so called ‘rom-com’ it was neither romantic or comedic, and I was nowhere near laughing or crying at any point during this flat, pointless 103minutes of my life that I will never get back.

Diane Keaton doesn’t seem to have moved on at all from Annie Hall, 40 years ago. She has the same cross dressing fashion sense, the same ditzy approach to life. But at 71, and without the support of Woody Allen’s priceless script or direction, it just doesn’t work any more, and all the fashion berets in the world won’t change that.

Brendan Gleeson fared a little better, but you couldn’t help the feeling that he was frankly embarrassed by some of the terrible lines he had to deliver. He seemed to be wrestling with the script like Leo and the bear in The Revenant, with about the same level of success. No wonder he wanted to be left alone; with dialogue like that I’d avoid talking to anyone too.

As for the preposterous plot, let’s not even go there. From people keeping hospital admission paperwork for 17 years, to a hardened woodsman deciding to try a mudpack face mask (producing slices of cucumber from nowhere in the bathroom), it seemed that Hampstead wasn’t even trying to make sense.

They were clearly trying to follow the well worn formula set by films such as the similarly location-titled Notting Hill. American leading lady – check. Well known British leading man – check. Heartwarming story of mis-matched lives and lifestyles – check. They even had a director with form in the genre, with Joel Hopkins having directed similar stuff, to much better effect, in Last Chance Harvey.

Yet there was no chemistry whatsoever between the leads, despite the non-stop naff ‘British rom-com’ soundtrack that ran incessantly through the film in a doomed attempt to create some. Something was clearly missing here, or rather someone. Hampstead had a great big, gaping Richard Curtis shaped hole in it that even this talented cast couldn’t avoid falling through.

It may only be five miles from Notting Hill to Hampstead, but the two films are a world apart when it comes to charm, wit and character. From very early on I found myself wanting to jump a bus up the road to browse in Hugh Grant’s bookshop for a couple of hours until it was safe to come back again.

Films like Hampstead make the idea of living off grid seem strangely attractive.

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