Thursday, January 01, 2009

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS - Imelda Staunton steals the show

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS is a British comedy directed by Andy Cadiff (CHASING LIBERTY) and co-written by the scabrously funny editor of PRIVATE EYE, Ian Hislop. It's a classic fish-out-of-water comedy in which an aging, insecure but insufferably arrogant Hollywood star is duped into starring in an amateur production of King Lear in the middle of the British countryside. He wants a suite in the Four Seasons and a personal trainer: he gets a room in a B&B, rehearsals in a barn and accusations of an affair with the sponsor's wife. He also gets to finally empathise with Lear as a man who has a ruinous relationship with his children.

As plots go, A BUNCH OF AMATEURS is pretty creaky, and the production values are pretty flaky too. Given that Hislop was involved in the script I was surprised that the movie wasn't more sharply satirical. Indeed, I was hoping for something along the line of David Mamet's incendiary STATE AND MAIN. Still, while the comedy may be more lukewarm, A BUNCH OF AMATEURS has its moments. Burt Reynolds is stealth funny as the insecure actor who builds himself up to a moment of existential angst on a rain-swept hill, but its Imelda Staunton who steals scenes as his adoring landlady. Her facility with physical comedy is captivating and makes up for the inadequacies in the script. Other than that, Samantha Bond and Derek Jacobi are rather wasted.

A BUNCH OF AMATEURS is on release in the UK.

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