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Hitched and hooked

19 May 2006

5:12 PM

19 May 2006

5:12 PM

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I don’t know quite what came over me during the screening of Confetti. I was well prepared: I had curled my lip and rolled my eyes at the daft poster on the Tube; I had sighed and shaken my head over the British obsession with weddings — and films about weddings; before the lights went down, as I read about the concept in the production notes (three engaged couples enter a magazine’s ‘Most Original Wedding’ competition in the hope of winning a Dream Home), I felt my heart travel bootwards, and I checked the number of minutes I’d be expected to stay in my seat…

…But ten minutes later, I was laughing. And laughing a lot.

The film is shot documentary-style, in the manner of one of Christopher Guest’s (Best In Show, A Mighty Wind) or of The Office. It is a conceit which works perfectly. Oddly enough, the film is all the better for being more like television than a movie. It is freed from the dutiful dreariness of British cinema, and inhabits the distinctly unusual, and rewarding, arena of British television comedy.

The six competition finalists are followed through a weekly countdown to their big day, which is being orchestrated not only by the magazine’s bossy editor Vivien (Felicity Montagu) and its odious owner Antoni (Jimmy Carr) but also by a pair of wedding planners (Jason Watkins and Vincent Franklin). While the wedding planners — themselves a couple — do their best to fulfil the dreams of the contestants, the magazine attempts to stifle them (having chosen one couple’s naturist concept, they then refuse to allow the couple to be wed in the nude. ‘No one wants to see her muff,’ says Antoni firmly). The other themes in the competition are ‘Wimbledon’ and ‘Broadway musical’. I know it sounds like a stinker, but by gosh it’s hilarious.

What makes the picture is the acting, and what makes the acting is the confidence and the imagination of the director (Debbie Isitt). Martin Freeman (The Office), Jessica Stevenson (Spaced, The Royle Family), Stephen Mangan (Green Wing), Robert Webb (Peep Show) and Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Green Wing) are some of the funniest actors on television — if you don’t watch television, you’ll just have to believe me. All the dialogue is improvised, which could have been the worst decision the director made, but turns out to have been her best. Her trust in her cast has been well rewarded: Isitt has captured convincing, sensitive, spontaneous and acutely comical performances. The six actors make wonderfully credible couples, and by filming and judging the competition ‘for real’ Isitt has ensured that they could not be trying any harder to win. It shows: through all their madness and skulduggery we back them to the hilt.

That’s not to say there aren’t duff moments. Jokes about naked Badminton games and extreme campery did nothing for me (but had some of the audience in noisy hysterics). We saw too much of the wedding planners larking about, and not enough of the couples alone with each other. Jimmy Carr has limited charm, to say the least — although he’s a lot less annoying here than he is when presenting one of those endless chat/quiz/gameshows. Alison Steadman reprises a familiar role — although, heck, she’s pretty good at it. The music is a washout — something which is shown up when one scene (a fight) is played to ‘Love Is In The Air’ and immediately becomes much funnier because of it.

But the laughs are still abundant. As in The Office, the comedy is intensified by unpredictable moments of sensitivity. Often the remains of a laugh from the previous joke are still hanging in the air as we are touched by something heartfelt or compassionate. To the obvious fury of the tennis couple (we are laughing), another bride, Sam, wins a makeover at a wedding trade fair. Her fiancé’s face, when he sees her transformation, is simply adorable (we stop laughing and sigh dreamily). Tennis mediocrity Josef sings a crap song to his bride-to-be (we snicker), who hugs him clumsily (we coo). We hoot as Matt tells his interfering future sister-in-law to f*** off, and then are immediately silenced as tearful bride Sam pleads with her sister to let her have ‘just this one day’ for herself.

It sometimes doesn’t help a comedy to recommend it. It is such a pleasure to laugh unexpectedly — to go into the cinema, as I did, expecting the worst. So I shall say, you might hate it. And I shall say, Confetti just worked, for me. I surrendered myself to a fit of the giggles. With lines like, ‘Please get it into your thick head how much I respect you,’ can you blame me?

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