Truly enjoyable British romantic-comedies come along so rarely (Four Weddings and a Funeral was more than 20 years ago) that there's cause to celebrate this smart, likeable romp. Director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris never try to obscure the predictable plot, but they pack every scene with sharp characters, snappy dialogue and riotous set-pieces. As a result, we're laughing so much that we barely notice that we're also being reeled in emotionally.
The story centres on Nancy (Lake Bell), who is feeling particularly alone while travelling to London and a 40th anniversary party for her parents (Ken Stott and Harriet Walter). Whinging to her sister (Sharon Horgan) on the phone, she is challenged to be more spontaneous. So when she arrives at Waterloo Station and meets Jack (Simon Pegg), who mistakes her for his blind date, she decides to go along with it, assuming the identity of 24-year-old triathlete Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond). As the afternoon and evening roll out, Nancy and Jack get along surprisingly well until they run into both his bitter ex (Olivia Williams) and one of her old school friends (Kinnear), who sees this as his chance to win her over.
While there are plenty of farcical moments on this drunken night out, the filmmakers never play up the slapstick, acknowledging every over-the-top moment with an eye-roll and a pithy comment. Pegg and Bell are simply perfect for these roles: smart, witty, likeable people with questionable social skills. Both characters are a bit beaten down, but they're also open to what life throws at them, so the rather messy journey they take is thoroughly engaging. They also leave much of the crazier comedy to expert supporting players like Williams and especially Kinnear, whose character very nearly steals the movie with his goofy stalker-like antics.
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A simple train journey can have incredibly far-reaching consequences. When Nancy (Lake Bell) meets Jessica (Ophelia Lovibond) on a train, she notices the book she is reading is designed to help with relationship success. Jessica tells her that the book itself is not to be leant, as she is using it to meet up with her blind date. Nancy steals the book, believing that it will work as a serious self-help guide, however she ends up running into Jack (Simon Pegg), who was Jessica's blind date. When Nancy chooses to pose as Jessica, she has the perfect date - only he doesn't know she's lying.
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During the Second World War, France was quickly and violently taken over by the German army. Now, under enemy occupation, the residents find themselves having to house and shelter their victorious enemies. Lucille Angellier (Michelle Williams) is one of these people, having to share her house with Commander Bruno von Falk (Matthias Schoenaerts). Despite being on two different sides of the conflict, the two find a strange attraction to one-another, and a romance begins to blossom. But Madame Angellier (Kristin Scott Thomas), Lucille's mother-in-law, distrusts the German officer, leading to a series of events that will test the strength of love and trust, in a time of war.
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Gay guys whining about their complicated sex lives may be wearing a bit thin as a staple for alternative romantic comedies, but "Bedrooms and Hallways" gives this retread genre a good, swift kick in the pants.
A light, soap-operatic satire of shifting sexual orientation from Rose Troche, the director of "Go Fish," this Brit import has been a buzz flick at Gay and Lesbian film festivals all year long for its steady supply of laughs, its exploration of sexual identity and its somewhat surprising last act.
Kevin McKidd ("Trainspotting") stars as Leo, a reserved, romantically frustrated 30-year-old whose surprise birthday party, which opens the film, quickly becomes an fusion of all the entanglements in his life.
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"Bright Young Things" is a terribly witty romp through 1930s pre-war London with a pack of idle young swells who live scrumptious but superficial lives of joyous gossip-page decadence and complacent scandal that has the potential to ruin them.
Very cleverly adapted (from Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies") and directed by the gifted comedic actor Stephen Fry ("Wilde," "Peter's Friends"), our surrogate in this world is Adam Symes (newcomer Stephen Campbell Moore), a well-connected but flat broke novelist and fringe member of this society who is railroaded into writing an anonymous gossip column about his pals -- although he's soon inventing entirely fictional members of the circle just to keep his readers amused.
An ironic failure at schemes to get rich quick so he can ask the "frantically bored" and beautiful but secretly vulnerable and melancholy Nina (subtly heartbreaking and simply wonderful Emily Mortimer) to marry him, Adam's fortunes -- which practically fluctuate with the tides -- are just one source of endless humor. But director Fry furtively hints at shades of compunction and misfortune under the film's carefree surface that bubble up as world events encroach on these lives of leisure, eventually taking the film to an unexpected level of empathy, nuance and humanity.
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