Saturday 1 July 2017

Movie Review: How To Make Love Like An Englishman (2014)

An insipid romantic triangle, How To Make Love Like An Englishman (also known as Some Kind Of Beautiful and Lessons In Love) is a tonally deaf exercise in wasting talent.

In England, Richard Haig (Pierce Brosnan) has followed in the footsteps of his father Gordon (Malcolm McDowell) and also become a professor of romantic literature. Gordon's ethos is to defy authority, raise hell and live life to the full, and Richard teaches with the same passion while bedding a succession of much younger college girls for kicks. But when his latest nubile student partner Kate (Jessica Alba) announces that she is pregnant, Richard decides to move with her to Los Angeles and settle down, despite being more attracted to her more mature sister Olivia (Salma Hayek).

A few years after their son Jake is born, Kate announces that she is thoroughly bored with Richard and takes up with boyfriend Brian (Ben McKenzie), while Richard relocates to the pool house to stay close to Jake. Olivia's marriage falls apart, creating an opening for romance to blossom again with Richard, but with his immigration date approaching Richard has to maintain the pretense that he is happily married to Kate, while Gordon's continued erratic behaviour and caustic attitude disrupts his son's already chaotic life.

Directed by Tom Vaughan, co-produced by Brosnan and barely released, How To Make Love Like An Englishman is an embarrassment with more alternative titles than ideas. The Matthew Newman script does not come close to generating emotions of any type, and instead of love, laughs, chemistry or conflict, the film just goes into a lazy coma. Basic character motivations are repeatedly violated, Richard's sudden turn from philanderer to loyal husband and father just the first of many incredulous moments.

The low point arrives courtesy of Kate, who takes umbrage at Richard's affair with Olivia two years after she abandoned him and moved her toyboy lover under their roof.

With the love triangle taking on a pear shape, Malcolm McDowell appears at regular intervals with a caricaturish portrayal of a father whose entire set of conversational skills consists of acerbic and profanity-riddled commentary. His late conversion to a human being is equally outlandish.

The sub-plot about Richard trying to secure his permanent residency in the United States is tacked on with astounding carelessness, a well-educated and well-resourced applicant reduced to dealing with a bottom-of-the-barrel lawyer.

The cast is too talented for the material, with Brosnan, Alba, Hayek and McDowell giving it their all but unable to do anything meaningful or memorable with their roles. Hayek gets the one laugh in the film, and it's a straight lift-and-switch of the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally.... The only lesson learned from How To Make Love Like An Englishman is that when your script ideas are nonexistent, steal the moment of climax from a classic American comedy.

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