Powell and Charles Frend were great filmmakers, but they couldn’t win the war on
their own. Catrin Cole will also do her part as a “Rosie the Riveter” of
screenwriting. Initially, she is recruited to boost a prospective propaganda
film’s appeal to women, but her talent will lead to more substantial contributions
in Lone Scherfig’s Their Finest (trailer here), which screens
during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.
thought she was applying for another clerical job, but it was in fact a
position writing “slop,” Bechdel Test-passing dialogue, for wartime propaganda
films. Evidently, her bosses were impressed by her uncredited newspaper work.
Of course, she will remain uncredited on the film and she will necessarily be
paid less than her male counterparts. Yet, it is still quite an opportunity.
first, veteran screenwriter and committed cynic Tom Buckley is less than
thrilled to share an office and duties with Cole, but he recognizes her talent
relatively quickly. Their mutual attraction will develop more slowly, but in an
assuredly steady fashion. Cole will also win over hammy past-his-prime leading
man, Ambrose Hilliard, as she helps morph his comically bumbling character into
a figure of tragic heroism, while still serving the best interests of the film.
the film-within-the-film Cole and company labor to complete actually looks like
it would be pretty good, or at least easily watchable if Scherfig and her
ensemble made it for reals, which is definitely saying something. Conceived as
a chronicle of the Dunkirk evacuation designed to boost British moral and sway still
neutral American public opinion, it definitely seems to be in keeping with the
tone and aesthetics of the classic Powell, Frend, and Cavalcanti films of the
primary film itself is also quite stirring and genuinely touching. Gemma
Arterton takes a completely charming and engaging star-turn as Cole that could
potentially raise her profile in America to the level she has reached in the
UK. She is like a more vulnerable Rosalind Russell, which we do not say
lightly. The romantic chemistry she forges with Sam Claflin’s Buckley always
feels like it develops organically. Likewise, her scenes with Hilliard (played with wry zest by Bill Nighy, the acting guy) have the wit and charm of vintage Ealing comedy. Yet, perhaps the
biggest laughs come from Jake Lacy, portrayying an American RAF volunteer, cast in
Cole’s film for his jawline and real life heroic exploits rather than his
painfully awkward line-readings.
To its credit, Their Finest is not the predictable feel good film you might
expect. Overall, it will do wonders
for viewers’ morale too, but Scherfog and screenwriter Gaby Chiappe stay true
to the desperate realities of London during the Blitz. Regardless, it is a
pleasure to watch the accomplished ensemble do what they do best, including
Jeremy Irons and Richard E. Grant making the most of cameo appearances. It
would make a fitting pairing with The King’s Speech with its rousing portrait of the British home front, but with
a pinch of feminist commentary unobtrusively sprinkled into the mix. Enthusiastically
recommended, Their Finest screens again
today (1/28), as part of this year’s Sundance.
Labels: Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton, Sundance '17, WWII Cinema