Monday, 12 March 2018

Movie Review: Finding Your Feet (2018)



The plot: The hopeful married life of Lady Sandra Abbott (Imelda Staunton) takes a very sudden turn when she discovers her husband (John Sessions) having an affair. Betrayed and wanting for a place to go next, she goes to her estranged sister Bif (Celia Imrie), who agrees to share her home while Sandra gets things in order. As the two reconnect and Bif gets Sandra to open up a bit through her dance group meetups, Sandra begins the long process of readjusting to the world in light of her romantic fallout.


For those who wanted to see a romance between Professor Umbridge and Wormtail, this is the movie for you! On a far less jeering note, Staunton admittedly plays the drunken racist part of her initial character a little too well, but along with this being a problem to be fixed and not just put up with, her warmer moments definitely sell and her chemistry with Spall and Imrie and pretty much everyone here sells even harder. Spall gets easily the most heart-wrenching moments of the film to play with and… “I can’t fix her”. I'M NOT CRYING!

Also, credit to Sian Thomas for giving a very respectable performance alongside him as his ailing wife. Imrie is the free-spirited core of the film, meant to represent that the spark of life doesn’t wane even in the older years, something that Imrie pulls off tremendously well. Whose Line Is It Anyway? alumni John Sessions and Josie Lawrence work out fine as the cheating husband and homewrecker respectively, and Joanna Lumley makes for another very welcome presence, getting in some pretty solid one-liners.

With age comes experience, understanding and an appreciation for what life can offer. Honestly, more so than quite a few films I’ve covered aimed at the older generation, this one gets across that notion the best. Having a cast full of prime comedic talent means that we get plenty of chuckles, but none of that happens at the expense of the characters. This isn’t a situation where we’re supposed to laughing because seeing old people dancing, having sex and smoking weed is inherently funny. In fact, while keeping the tone rather light throughout, it shows remarkable willingness to delve into some pretty heavy ideas.

Ideas like the importance of mental health, acceptance of non-straight sexuality, dealing with a romantic interruption at a time in one’s life where you would wonder if you’ll ever find it again, even a moment devoted to emotional triggers with Ted (David Hayman) breaking down over being reminded of his late wife. This film is definitely quite frothy and keeps a lighter tone for the most part, but it still manages to handle these moments breezily, resulting in quite a few emotional gut-punches that don’t feel undeserved nor jarring. Even considering this is coming from the same director that gave us the Ian McKellen version of Richard III, that’s quite a feat.

Actually… wait a minute. Mental illness, sexuality, recreational drug use; isn’t this more what them young people today would be talking about? Why is this older generation concerning themselves with this stuff? Well, that’s kind of the thing about bringing stuff like this up nowadays. There’s this weirdly narrow mindset out there that keeps insisting that all of these topics are only now getting brought up, as if they were never even a concern until recently. But it’s not like activism begins and ends in the age of social media, as is highlighted through Bif reminiscing about her more proactive days campaigning against nuclear weapons.

Every generation has some element of rebellion to it: The suffragette movement of the early 1900’s, the sexual revolution of the 60’s, even the often-ridiculed social justice warriors of today; none of this is new. It’s becoming a far-too-easy retort to most attempts to actually try and change things, just writing it off as a recent fad that will just disappear… but look at what we have here. Older characters rediscovering not only their own zeal for life but also recollections of what they have accomplished in that life. The result of this is something that definitely keeps mortality well in mind, both for comedic and dramatic effect, but also something that helps ground a lot of ideas, ones that still need a fair amount of addressing even today, in the realm of personal history. Talk to these people, with the lives they have lived, and try to convince them that any of these concerns are new.

Bit of a shame that that doesn’t really stay consistent for the entire film. A lot of these harsher moments happen early on, and as the film settles itself in and the romantic aspects become fully-formed, that same willingness to leap into darker tones seems to fall away. As a result, this is a bit of an early peaker, starting out really damn strong through highlighting both the lightness and tragedy surrounding a lot of our characters, and then we get more fixated on the dancing and… it’s weird but this film would have benefitted from maybe staying away from its own main crux. Maybe this is a side effect of the dialogue and sparkling repartee between the cast, but it’s far more enjoyable to see these people talk than dance. Don't get me wrong, there’s a lot of light-footedness to be had here, making the dance numbers rather enjoyable in their own right. It’s just that what came before shines a brighter light than the one on their stage.

All in all, while definitely light entertainment, this still has a lot of oomph to it. The acting is top-notch, utilizing a fair bit of older British comedic talent to great effect, the writing gets in some good laughs while also highlighting some damn effective drama, and the overall direction manages to keep things from getting too cheesy or too maudlin. It may start out strong and begin to peter out after a while, but those strong moments are more than enough to carry this story through its steps.

It ranks higher than All The Money In The World, which likewise had moments that far-and-away outshone the majority, but at least here, it doesn’t hit any major valleys in the process. Finding Your Feet may start out stronger than it ends, but it still keeps things interesting even during its smaller moments. However, I would still rank this lower than The Polka King. This film may actually delve into the heavier notions brought up in the story, unlike Polka King, but with the talent on offer, it was a given that this would at least turn out decent. The Polka King is only the latest in a series of films relating to the American Dream, a topic that I have shown simmering disinterest in in the past… and yet it still won me. In the direct comparison, the latter ends up being the more impressive accomplishment.

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