Dir. Julia Taylor-Stanley, UK, 2006, 106 mins
Cast: Zoe Tapper, Andrew Lincoln, David Leon
Review by Carol Allen
I have a soft spot for movies about the theatre, particularly those set in the old fashioned pre and post World War II world, as in Being Julia and An Awfully Big Adventure. It's a world I devoured in novels as a child, dreamed of being part of but was on its last legs in the sixties, when the last of the weekly rep theatres died out. These Foolish Things is the story of aspiring young actress Diana (Tapper), orphaned as a child, who takes herself off to London to fulfill her dream. Set in the late thirties just before the war, there’s a sweet, old fashioned innocence and naïvety about the story, particularly in Diana's relationship with the two men in her life - would be playwright Robin (Leon) and actor and would be director Christopher (Lincoln) - which is charming. Lincoln is particularly good, playing a mature, considerate and thoroughly decent chap, who is very much of the period, while the impossibly handsome Leon is a bit of a find. Tapper, who is very up and coming ("Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky" for television, "Epitaph for George Dillon" in the West End and Nell Gwynn in the film Stage Beauty), is touching and very engaging as Diana. With Tapper and Leon in particular you are very conscious that these are young people, with whom we can identify today, as being at the beginning of their journey through life, but in a very different time with very different attitudes to ours regarding things like love and life itself.
The film is also at times outrageously camp both in its theatricality and more literally in some of its characters. Jamie Glover (son of Julian) is wickedly funny as the flagrantly gay Everard, at a time when homosexuality was illegal. First time director Taylor-Stanley, who also wrote the screenplay, has gathered an impressively stellar supporting cast of movie veterans to support the young ones. Angelica Huston plays patron and "angel" Lottie Oswood, who makes their dreams come true, grande dame Lauren Bacall gives a very ballsy cameo as, well, a theatrical grande dame and Terence Stamp is great fun, making the most of his lines as an eccentric butler with attitude. Haydn Gwynne makes a strong impression as Diana's blasé but kind Aunt Ada, who helps support her niece both financially and morally and I love Julia McKenzie as Diana's mumsy theatrical landlady, a species which again is probably now extinct. The wallpaper in her house is startlingly of the period. She also appears to be the only character in the film paying any attention to the impending war.
Despite the loving attention to period detail, this film is more a romantic fairy tale than a realistic picture of life in pre-war England. And there are times when it veers rather dangerously close to melodrama. I was also not convinced that Diana, who very rarely seems to attend the rather dreadful drama/finishing school, in which she has enrolled, and who tramps the streets of London doing many auditions but never getting a part, would then find such easy success on the West End stage, even with the support of the flamboyant Lottie. But I found myself willing to forgive the film any faults, because I was having such an entertaining and yes, nostalgic time in this very different England from today.
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