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These Foolish Things
Perilously Close to Foolish
by Matt Forsman on Aug 10, 2007
Young Diana (Zoe Tapper), an ingénue with a heart of gold and a truckload of naiveté, heads to London in the 1930s to make it big on the stage as an actress. Despite the right kind of genes (her mother was a star on the stage), Diana finds the world of theater complicated, vexing, and more than she expected. This "revelation" leads to trials, tribulations, and adventures Diana never could have anticipated.
If this description for These Foolish Things sounds a bit run of the mill, it’s because the film largely is just that. Zoe Tapper has the kind of countenance that screams youth and innocence, so she’s well cast as Diana. What’s interesting about Diana’s desire to be a stage actress is that she actually had a profoundly harrowing experience at an early age when she saw her mother die before her eyes on stage. Would this not actually make one want to stay AWAY from the stage…and perhaps seek therapy later in life?
Anyway, Diana spent most of her formative years with her aunt and uncle (it’s not exactly clear what the story was with her father) after her mother’s death which proved to be a pretty painful experience for Diana as her cousins were brutes for the most part. What’s challenging to accept about Diana’s plight is how this could have happened. Her mother was wildly successful and famous, how is it Diana seemingly ended up with nothing and has to come to London and ‘struggle’ to be an actress?
At any rate, Diana quickly finds herself swooning over aspiring playwright Robin Gardner (Leon Powell). Robin’s passion for penning plays is only matched by his passion for Diana. Naturally, Robin has a part in mind for Diana in his latest work. But, passion alone is rarely enough to bring a play to life. Money helps too.
Enter Broadway angel investor, Lottie Osgood (Angelica Huston). Fortunately, Lottie sees potential in Robin’s work and agrees to back it, much to the chagrin of a dashing matinee idol, Douglas Middleton (Mark Umbers) who is still smarting from Robin snubbing his earlier amorous advances and Garstin (Leo Bill), Diana’s wormy and resentful cousin.
Director Julia Taylor-Stanley did a serviceable job filling the primary cast and populating a number of smaller roles with some bigger names. Terence Stamp plays a sarcastic, piano playing butler for Lottie. Lauren Bacall makes an appearance in the latter stages of the film assisting with the production of the play. But, the abundance of talent seems a bit wasted at times. Bacall and Stamp arguably play pivotal roles, but we really don’t get much of a chance to learn anything substantive about them.
This problem is even more pronounced with the primary cast. Diana is about as generic an ingénue as they make them. She’s attractive and presumably has some talent as an actress, but you just don’t care all that much about her. She’s not that compelling. Diana’s certainly not as compelling as the odd Lottie Osgood or the quirky piano playing butler who we see far too little of.
Interspersed throughout These Foolish Things are references to World War I which is on the verge of breaking out and changing everything. Clearly, this world altering event mirrors the smaller, more personal revelations and loss of innocence Diana and some of the characters experience, but this doesn’t really add much to the film, ultimately.
These Foolish Things is not necessarily a bad film, but there isn’t anything that jumps off the screen. It’s solidly mediocre. Some of the characters are vaguely entertaining, but the main character is difficult to connect with for the most part. It should also be mentioned that the end of the film is so saccharine it virtually negates all of the redeeming qualities of the film.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Aug 10, 2007