The Love Punch is part of a growing trend towards rom-coms for oldies; that is, fine actors not in the first flush of youth but who appeal to viewers of the same generation – but written and directed by a cool and funky film-maker who can strike a chord with the cool and funky dudes market (in this case Joel Hopkins.) The grey pound is not to be sneered at, for in these poverty-stricken times the oldies are often the most well-to-do, and doubtless the marketing bods will tell you they are the most ready to part with their nine quid to go to the multiplex to be entertained with a witty script and people who know how to act willingly sending themselves up for a large pay cheque. Win:win, they probably say to themselves, rubbing hands gleefully while the box office receipts pile up.
In this case, Emma Thompson and Pierce Brosnan are Kate and Richard, a frightfully English frightfully middle-class divorced couple who like nothing better than engaging in the sort of middle-class bickering whereby well-rounded epithets are thrown into the ether like confetti, all the better to hang in the air for a moment. Brosnan adopts the same perma-grin that stood him in such good effect for Mama Mia!, while Thompson retains her well-practised worldly-wise earth mother persona, at least until events take her beyond her comfort zone – though womanly wisdom turns out to be her salvation.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Kate and Richard have a university-bound student daughter and a techno-geek son with a flatmate ignorantly prone to acts of ritual self-humilation in full view of the computer cam. Their respective love lives are less than fulfilling, but nonetheless they remain happily apart, sharing only best friends Jerry and Penelope (reminding me strongly of The Good Life.) The latter couple are played with even greater English middle-clash relish by the ever-reliable Timothy Spall and Celia Imrie, actors who in lesser company can be expected to steal scenes everywhere they go, but as it is turn in delightful supporting roles with aplomb.
So far so good, but to support a 95-minute movie you need more than a few acid-tongued characters. In this case, the movie lurches towards the cartoonish crime caper as Richard and Kate attempt to gain recompense for the wrong done to their business by baddie hedge fund owner (aren’t they all?) Laurent Laffite. In fact, their plan comprises gatecrashing the rich guy’s wedding at the Cap d’Antibes and stealing a $10m diamond from his intended. Being the decent sorts they are, all the employees of Richard’s company who were cheated out of their pensions are duly compensated. Robin Hood for the 21st Century, you might say.
I won’t waste your time on the plot details, since you’ve seen them all a hundred times minimum, this being a very formulaic plot-by-numbers – and, typically for the genre, packed to the gunnels with plot holes through which you could drive the proverbial bus. But you see, that’s not the point, my friends. The point is it’s a jolly jaunt with a few decent visual and verbal jokes along the way, a fair number of product-placed Citroens and a good time had by all. There are more than a few nods along the way, most notably to The Italian Job and, given Brosnan’s past, Bond movie cliches. But the real point is this: it sells. Ay, there’s the rub.
There were funny lines there. This I know because the audience tittered and guffawed quite a lot. I must apologise for my defective hearing because I missed a good proportion of the more muttered lines, though given Thompson’s excellent diction I did pick up almost all of her lines loud and clear. Some made me smile, though not the sort of smile that would warrant repeat viewings on DVD. A lot of the laughs are from oldies doing stuff oldies aren’t meant to be doing. They should be sitting on their sofas with their feet in slippers watching TV, leaving all the action stuff and love scenes to the young folk, shouldn’t they? No, actually.
Thompson is in my opinion a very fine actress, better than many a Hollywood leading lady – as you may have noticed from my recent review of Saving Mr Banks. And indeed, Brosnan is a better actor than his reputation might suggest. There is more than a little of the telephoning in his performance, but I don’t doubt all four leading names had a riot doing a spot of filming down in the South of France. That apart, why might they want to squander their ample talents doing an easy turn like The Love Punch?
Arguably, given Thompson’s distinguished career she has little if nothing to prove, but then she is very capable of serious projects that will cement her status in movie making history long after this frothy confection is gone and forgotten. Maybe Brosnan should be aiming to make more of a mark as a dramatic character actor though? I’d like to see him take on a heavyweight role, just to show he has it within him. He’s done Tennessee Williams – indeed was personally selected by the playwright for the role of McCabe in The Red Devil Battery Sign – but let’s see what he can do among the classics too. Pierce – I challenge you!
So there you have it, an everyday tale of wealthy folk, culminating, don’t you know, in a happy ending with Kate and Richard getting back together. Well, cor blimey, strike a light, would you Adam & Eve it? All competently done by a very decent cast with excellent locations, fair script and professional delivery, but like candy floss it’s big on instant gratification but low on substance. Perfectly passable if you like that sort of thing, certainly way, way better than Last Vegas to name but one dire alleged comic buddy movie.
Definitely not a film of stature by any stretch of the imagination, but be honest – you never expected it would be, did you? You just wanted light entertainment to liven your evening, didn’t you? If it tastes like candy floss, cool. There you go then!