As soon as one film finds success with a subject previously thought not to hold any commercial appeal, movie-makers tend to run around in a desperate attempt to imitate the same previously unconsidered route to success. Gladiator shows that the historical epic can still find an audience, and within a couple of years we have the likes of Kingdom of Heaven and the upcoming Hannibal trying to cash in. X-Men does stupidly well at the box office, and the next few years sees cinemas packed out with umpteen other movies based on comic books and superheroes.
On this occasion, the fact that we’ve got another same-sex romance coming out so soon after the critical and commercial success of the gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain would tend to suggest that it was merely a fluke of timing on the part of its producers. In fact, considering the central same-sex relationship here is a lesbian one – somehow always considered less risqué and to have more commercial appeal than one between two men – received wisdom would suggest that the only dampener to this film’s potential success would be that men might find themselves told off by their other halves if they suggested going to the cinema to see some girl-on-girl action.
Whereas Brokeback Mountain is a restrained, serious and mournful look at forbidden love in the finest traditions of Romeo and Juliet, this is the female, romantic comedy version. At her wedding, Piper Perabo’s bride Rachel spots Lena Headley’s florist Luce, the proverbial lightning bolt strikes, and the two women fall instantly in love.
Yep, it’s a romantic comedy where the central relationship is an adulterous homosexual one – if that doesn’t get the religious right up in arms, nothing will. But this is such an inoffensive, almost bland affair that it is hard to see how anyone could object, other than in as much as they might feel rather short-changed after sitting in the cinema for a couple of hours in search of a satisfactory resolution.
For much of the running time, this film is taken up with the near-misses and potential discoveries of any attempt to have an affair, surrounded by the now requisite troupe of eccentric Brits that make up most films aimed at Americans but set in the UK – here personified by Rachel’s parents, played by Celia Imrie and Tony Head, better known as “that one off Victoria Wood” and “Giles from Buffy”.
This isn’t to say that this is not a passably enjoyable little film, but simply that despite the central gay theme and uncertainty of the ending – a blessed relief in the romantic comedy genre – everything is pretty much played by numbers. The only thing missing is for Rachel’s husband to be unpleasant and/or abusive. He’s not. He seems like a thoroughly nice chap. In fact, everyone involved seems thoroughly nice. And that, in the final analysis, is far less believable than a woman deciding she’s a lesbian on her wedding day.