Thursday, 15 November 2018

Patrick (2018) - Movie Review

After the scourge of talking animal movies audiences have been inflicted with this year, today’s film should come across as a pleasant reprieve. Yes, the title character and main narrative engine is an animal, but we’re not stuck with stupid and/or contrived dialogue to give it a reason for being here. Instead, it serves as main character Sarah’s wake-up call. Played with immense likeability by Beattie Edmondson, Sarah finds herself in an uncannily familiar rom-com situation: Unlucky in love, chomping on snack food on the couch in her pyjamas post-breakup, and in need of some control in her life. After the death of her grandmother, she is left with Granny’s beloved pug Patrick. Hijinks ensue.

Now, for obvious narrative reasons, the dog has to stay with Sarah but the film does a pretty pissweak job at establishing that. Living in a flat that doesn’t allow pets, not to mention barely being able to keep her own life in order, let alone a restless and spoiled animal, should be more than enough reason for her to be able to say “thanks but no thanks”. But instead, her well-meaning father her condescending mother and her perpetual cow of a sister all insist that she keep the dog anyway. Despite the fact that this was outlined in the not-actually-legally-binding list of wishes, and even for typical rom-com contrivance, it shouldn’t be adhered to like this. For the record, actually getting into the legality of why this plot exists in the first place is honestly more interesting than the contents of the plot itself.

For a film with a fairly standard wannabe-Beethoven plot, this is unfortunately bogged down with sub-plots. Written by director Mandie Fletcher, publicist Vanessa Davies and guy-with-more-credits-for-‘Thanks’-than-production Paul de Vos, it’s all too clear that these people didn’t know what to do with this premise. As such, it gets artificially puffed out with a love triangle between cute and self-centred vet Paul Skrein and sentient plank of wood Tom Bennett, a subplot of Sarah starting a new job as a high school English teacher, friction with the teachers and students, a charity Fun Run that only adds to the feelings of forced plot, and all the while, Patrick just wonders around and chews things. The pug one of those instantly cute dog breeds that lends itself well to cinema (worked well enough for Men In Black), and even through all the pointlessness, he remains quite adorable. Everything else? Not so much.

There’s the inescapable vibe that this is yet another example of light comedy that serves to show a woman taking control of her life… through means that she didn’t ask or care to receive in the first place. It’s a bit of an open secret that most if not all films serves to force fictional characters into frequently embarrassing situations for a form of perceivable growth, but here, the attempts at that are a little too naked. Even ignoring how cruddy Sarah’s situation is, having to take care of a rowdy canine while still trying to get her own shit in order, all of the progression made is more implied than anything else. She just goes from slightly-younger-Bridget-Jones to literally and metaphorically sailing the seas of life, all because of the dog she didn’t even ask for. Yeah, I’m sure having an arguably-non-sentient creature get all the thematic credit for your work does wonders for self-growth(!)

With how potent the truly awful animal-centric movies have been this year, even this film's biggest problems seem rather quaint by comparison. But once again, just because a film isn't absolute garbage doesn't mean that it should be praised solely for that reason. If anything, at least films like Pup Star: Better 2Gether and even fucking Show Dogs were interesting in how atrocious they were. The best that this can get is boredom with only a mild tinge of irritation.

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