Martha -Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence (15)

Directed by Nick Hamm
Starring Monica Potter, Joseph Fiennes, Rufus Sewell, Tom Hollander, Ray Winstone

The British Comedy film is a much more popular beast since Four Weddings and a Funeral. This month sees two very enjoyable comedies in the same mould, this one and Sliding Doors. This film is saddled with a very unwiely title, yet has a lot of charm, and is the funnier of the two. The story is a highly unlikely one; down on her luck American Martha(Potter- very sweet), meets vain, spoilt but successful Daniel(Hollander) on a flight to London. He falls for her, of course, and tries to manoevre a further meeting by giving her the use of a hotel room and hoping to meet her for lunch. Things don't quite work out, and he meets with pals Frank(Sewell) and Laurence(Fiennes) to bemoan his luck. Shortly after Frank meets Martha accidentally and using his brand of bitter but witty cynicism he intends to snatch her away from his friend of whom he is rather jealous. The sensitive one of the three- Laurence, a bridge teacher(!) tells this story to neighbouring shrink Ray Winstone, gradually revealing his own meeting with Martha. Which man does Martha love and who will win her?
Actually there is little doubt but the enjoyment in this film is in the characters. Sewell and Hollander have the most fun as they are the more annoying ones, and get to be self centred and mean spirited. Fiennes(Ralph's younger brother) is the paragon. Definitely too good to be true. As any girl knows, you meet a man like him, gorgeous, soulful, caring, and you KNOW he will turn out to be gay! Of course, this being a movie, he isn't, and true love beckons, eventually.
All the actors are very good in this film, that rather like Sliding Doors, plays around with time, telling the story in a mixture of flash back, recollection and chronological time. Potter is very cute and while it is a little much to believe all three handsome men would fall quite so hard, she is appealing. Joseph Fiennes is very photogenic- like brother Ralph- those cheekbones and soulful eyes are a real magnet. To give him such a grotty flat and ridiculous job is a bit much probably, but I think Joseph could be following his brother to big screen hunkdom! Sewwll can do soulful- as in TV's Middlemarch, but instead gets to be obnoxiously cynical, and with a high opinion of himself, but does it well. Tom Hollander is probably best known for being the one who nearly married Saffie in Absolutely Fabulous' finale. He is short but rather good at playing spoilt men. I kind of liked him and wished we could have seen more of his self centredness.
London looks great -as it did in Sliding Doors, I bet the tourist board will be happy!- although I bet parking isn't THAT easy in London, and definitle not at the airport! The best things about this film though are the script and the actors. Deadpan comedy and quite a sweet romance give this a definite feelgood factor- that and the almost constant sunshine or Hollywood style sudden rain shower. The UK film industry is at its busiest now, and while romantic comedies like this are welcome, lets hope we get a few other successes in other genres too. 7/10

May 1998

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