Released: 14th July
Seen: 20th July
Every now and then a film comes out that I lovingly refer to as the “Nana Movie”, a film that’s clearly aimed for an audience of senior citizens that has middling stakes, a couple of charming performances and often is set in a little village in the middle of England or Scotland. They’re never really that great or memorable but they’re sit in that space where you’re comfortable taking your nan to see them because you’ll all be a little charmed and have a nice evening out before going for a bit of tea at whatever place near the cinema serves tea. The Nana Movie, it’s a thing… and Falling for Figaro is almost a perfect example of the Nana movie, albeit an example that’s very flawed.
Falling for Figaro follows Millie Cantwell (Danielle Macdonald), a fund manager who is living a fairly decent life with a long term boyfriend and a job that pays well enough for her to be able to afford renting a home in England. Still she finds herself unsatisfied so she decides to upend everything by leaving her job and boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latif) before going off to the Scottish Highlands to get Opera lessons from the renowned former Opera diva Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley). Meghan is a tough teacher, borderline abusive and has only one other student, the local pub’s kitchen boy Max (Hugh Skinner). Meghan gives Millie a chance as her student in order to train her alongside Max for a big upcoming competition, oh but how will Millie and Max get along… yeah, it’s a silly little British romcom, you get two guesses how this will go.
As one would expect, Falling for Figaro is undeniably charming. There’s a raw sincerity to it that’s hard to deny, something that just kind of seeps out of every frame and puts the audience at ease almost instantly. While there are no real huge stakes, the biggest being “It’d be kind of nice to win this competition that I’m entering for the first time… sure it’s not life changing but it’d be fun”, you still end up rooting for Max and Millie based purely on their talent and the undeniable awkward charm that they both possess. You never really end up worrying about their failure, it’s not like they’re going to lose anything important other than a bit of dignity, but you still want to see them succeed after the hard work they put in.
It also helps that Falling for Figaro has the secret weapon of Joanna Lumley who elevates every scene she’s in. She will deliver a withering put down with enough venom to take down just about anyone but something about the way that Lumley does it makes it hilarious and charming. Basically, she takes what she perfected playing Patsy on Ab Fab and just doesn’t wear the fabulous outfits while doing it and it makes for a hilariously bitchy character. There’s something undeniably hilarious to seeing someone trying their best to please this character and just getting a withering stare and a ‘piss off’ in return, and it would only work with someone as brilliant as Lumley in that role.
Where Falling for Figaro… well, falls is that the structure just doesn’t work and only leads to several seriously confusing moments. Interesting ideas are presented and then dropped, like Millie turning Twinkle Twinkle Little Star into a beautiful operatic performance which is a fascinating idea that’s abandoned almost instantly. Hell, in general it just makes no sense why Millie would leave her regular life (they even lampshade how stupid it is at one point).
Little moments like this end up affecting the overall pace and structure because things just seem to happen without any buildup. Millie decides to learn opera singing just because, Meghan takes Millie on as a student just because, Max and Millie make out just because, everything happens “Just because” and we’re meant to go along with it but the problem is that without proper build up, it pulls the audience out of the moment to ask “Wait, why are we doing this right now?”.
It’s also kind of wild to say that you end up asking “Why are we doing this right now” because Falling for Figaro is also just very formulaic, the second I told you it was a rom com and named all the characters and their roles I’m sure you figured out most of the plot and probably even a few of the jokes. It does the basic romcom plot on autopilot while forgetting to add the details that could elevate it into something really good, which is a shame because it would be nice to say that an operatic rom com was a little better than just fine.
For what it is, Falling for Figaro is just fine. The plot is basic, the acting adequate and the stakes so low that you couldn’t really limbo underneath them. The bright spot is Joanna Lumley who takes up the majority of this films laughs and it’s almost all fun. Falling for Figaro is not a bad film, but it’s a film that has potential that it doesn’t quite hit. It’s just fine, which shouldn’t be possible when literally doing something operatic.