Wednesday, 3 June 2015
A Bunch of Amateurs - Andy Cadiff - 2008
A charming and gently amusing little British film, A Bunch of Amateurs pitches an aging Hollywood action star (Burt Reynolds) into an English country village for a classic fish-out-of-water story with would-be hilarious consequences. Television director Andy Cadiff has a lot of fun mining the culture clash for wry humour – moments when Reynolds is faced with a full English breakfast rather than his normal American fads, or gets frustrated because he can walk the entire village in three minutes will bring smiles of recognition to anyone who has ever ventured into the English countryside – but the film lacks in many laugh-out-loud moments. Faced with the challenge of playing King Lear, one of the greatest characters ever written, with no previous stage experience, Jefferson’s ignorance is cringe worthy rather than funny and will likely leave audiences as awkward as his British co-stars. The principal problem is Reynolds; although he is largely very good as frustrated star Jefferson Steel, he often underplays intense scenes that many American actors would showboat their way through, he cannot escape the fact that Jefferson is a jackass and thus his bewilderment when Hollywood luxuries are suddenly not available is hardly going to induce any sympathy. In a rather obvious parallel with the play, the indignities inflicted on Jefferson drive him to a fairly ridiculous heath scene with a broken down library van before he errs towards redemption but his journey is never as moving as Cadiff would clearly like. Amongst the predictably eccentric Bunch of Amateurs Imelda Staunton gallantly chews through the scenery as an overly enthusiastic landlady and Derek Jacobi is on good form as a theatrical snob who cannot stand the sound of an American mangling the Bard’s words, but the most enjoyable performance comes from Samantha Bond. Given an all too rare leading role, Bond steals the film from everyone including Reynolds with a tireless warmth and humour that successfully keeps the audience from turning off when Jefferson gets too boorish and goes a long way towards redeeming the world of British amateur theatrics that the film so desperately wants to celebrate. It might not be the comedy gem that it could have been but as a small celebration of British pluck, embodied by this endearing Bunch of Amateurs, the film is still worth seeing.