‘Enchanting’ is entirely appropriate when speaking of Kelly Macdonald, even – or especially – when she appears in below average romantic comedies. She stars as Katie, a woman who retreats to her island home upon encountering quarterlife doldrums. Having gone ‘man vegan’ and resigned from her job as a writer for a menswear catalog, she is quickly commissioned to write a guidebook to her forgotten town.
Only Hegg, pop. 75, is not so neglected. It is the setting of novelist James Arber’s (David Tennant) magnum opus, The Ornithologist’s Wife, and he is due to marry international film star Lara Tyler (Alice Eve). Relentless press coverage forces the couple and their publicity team (Michael Urie and Sally Phillips) to escape the city, and they head to the sleepy island while disguised as marketing conference attendees.
In short order, Katie and James have an awkward run-in at a disused loo, Lara spies a tenacious paparazzo and goes AWOL, and Lara’s jumpy handlers recruit Katie as the decoy bride (!). But romantic comedy hell breaks loose when a tabloid army descends on Hegg. The fake couple gets trapped in a castle and then nearly drowns trying to escape. Lara, meanwhile, discovers Katie’s ill mother milking the media for extra cash.
While the requisite elements are in order, the sum of this movie falls short of the Richard Curtis benchmark. There is, admittedly, added value in seeing David Tennant draped in fur and harvest gold paisley and traipsing the island as ‘Lord of the Bagpipes’, but James is hardly a compelling hero. (The Ornithologist’s Wife?!) The real gem is Macdonald, and she makes The Decoy Bride worthy of some cupcakes and a bottle of wine on a lazy Saturday night. Characters brighten or fade in relation to shared screentime with her. Katie is not the desperate quirk, and she won’t get the guy just because she says embarrassing things that he mistakes for being adorable. Instead, she has that charming and underused quality, in movies, of sober self-awareness.
Prod: Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae, Paul Ritchie
Dir: Sheree Folkson
Writer: Neil Jaworski, Sally Phillips
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve, Hamish Clark, James Fleet, Dylan Moran, Sally Phillips, Michael Urie
Time: 89 min
Country: United Kingdom