Movies like Working Girl (Harrison Ford, Melanie Griffith), A League of Their Own, and most recently — Hidden Figures — tell stories about women dealing with working in a field dominated by men. This film, like all those others, works well. Director Lone Scherfig (The Riot Club, and the terrific An Education) doesn’t get preachy, but tells a great story that mixes a few genres. It’s smart and uplifting, and hits just the right amount of humorous notes. If you love film, you love watching movies like this one that deal with films being made.
It’s London in 1940, and the war is going strong. Actress Gemma Arterton, who was so beautiful in the horribly titled Bond movie Quantum of Solace, and was even decent in the disappointing Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters…is perfect for the part of writer Catrin Cole. At times she’s beautiful, often times reserved, and subtly shows anger on her face when she’s talked down to.
It really makes you realize, especially in this day and age when Hollywood actresses mistakenly talk about women making less than men, there was a time that not only did they…but they couldn’t even get the same jobs.
Cole goes to work for the Ministry of Information in the Film Division. They’re looking for films that will provide optimism. Writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) is snotty at first, often telling her she’d be good to write “the slop.” That’s what he calls the dialogue of female characters on screen.
When he reads a newspaper article about twin sisters who stole their father’s boat to save soldiers stranded at Dunkirk, Buckley figures this would make a good screenplay. He assigns Cole the task of talking to them.
Cole and Buckley bicker, but he quickly starts to respect her and compliment her writing. He’s probably got a crush on her, since when he asks about her husband (Jack Huston of Ben-Hur), it’s often in a condescending tone. He also doesn’t like the fact that she wants the sisters to be more heroic in the script. He figures the producer wants to stick with how things have been done — male heroes. It’s fun to watch how behind-the-scenes, filmmakers rarely care about the “based on a true story” being even remotely true.
With all of their cute banter, you sometimes forget a war is going on. Occasionally there are air raids, and explosions sometimes rattle the walls as they type away at their script.
One of the great treats in the film is a has-been actor named Ambrose Hilliard. He’s played by Bill Nighy, the brilliant British character-actor (I loved his underrated performance in Notes on a Scandal, where the women leads got most of the attention and Oscar nominations — Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett). Even though one of the bits he does has been done in other movies, it will crack you up each time. That involves a catch phrase from a character he’s done on film that people either quote to him, or ask him to do. He always gladly obliges.
The studio feels that America might get more behind the war effort if an American hero is cast. That means the blonde, good looking Carl Lundbeck (Jake Lacy, who was so good in Obvious Child, but disappointing in Miss Sloane). He also does stuff you’ve seen in other movies about movies being made — the guy that can’t act, and does his lines like he’s reading instead of naturally talking, or looking directly into the camera. Yet just like with Nighy’s character, it cracks you up when he does it.
At times, Cole reminds me of a female Trumbo as she works on scripts, often neglecting her husband. He’s a struggling artist that might finally be getting his big break.
The movie is romantic, funny, and a fun time at the movies. Even if a few of the scenarios seem forced, and it has one of the worst movie titles — check it out.
3 ½ stars out of 5.