Falling for Figaro, 2021.
Directed by Ben Lewin.
Starring Danielle Macdonald, Hugh Skinner, Joanna Lumley, Rebecca Benson, Gary Lewis, Shazad Latif, Ian Hanmore, Bhav Joshi, Saskia Ashdown, Christina Bennington, Margaret Fraser, and Vanessa Borrini.
A brilliant young fund manager leaves her unfulfilling job to chase her lifelong dream of becoming an opera singer in the Scottish Highlands.
Four years after her breakout rapping role in the underappreciated Patti Cake$, Danielle Macdonald is back on stage again in Falling for Figaro, this time chasing her dreams of becoming an opera singer. Ben Lewin’s (known for The Sessions and recently having done The Catcher Was a Spy) opens at an upper show, with Millie (Danielle Macdonald) and her boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latif) in the audience, with the former such a radiant talent that from her smiles and facial expressions alone it’s easy to believe this is an actual goal she wants nothing more in the world obtain. Of course, when the training and practicing it’s going, it’s equally comfortable becoming Millie’s cheerleader.
However, the usual charming pleasantries of Danielle Macdonald, unfortunately, aren’t enough to salvage the combining of a tutor from hell and standard romantic comedy plot trajectory. At least the filmmakers (the script is penned by first-time writer Allen Palmer, something that shows every step of the way given the predictability on display) have the common courtesy to put it right there in the title – Falling for Figaro – that Millie is going to fall for someone that jeopardizes and clashes with her mission at hand. Millie’s boyfriend is also an unsupportive jerk that rolls his eyes at her request, not happy when she quits her cushy job managing funds right before he gives her a promotion (yes, she’s also his boss). To him, it’s all a pointless endeavor that will end up as nothing more than a phase. It should be noted that his disapproval is slightly nuanced without turning him into an over-the-top villain.
After some practice, Millie is asked and honored to perform in front of a live paying audience, subsequently receiving rave views from various esteemed publications. Suddenly, Charlie is high-fiving everyone in the office, presumably ecstatic for what it means for him and not necessarily her achievements. Meanwhile, while honing her craft under the tutelage of underachieving former opera singer Megan (Joanna Lumley), who failed to live up to her potential and now lives in the middle of nowhere inside the Scottish Highlands, putting her students through the wringer as a result, Millie also develops an attraction toward the only other student, Max (Hugh Skinner), who specializes in Figaro.
At first, they start as rivals due to Max’s understandable but immature jealousy that Megan has decided to take on one more student. If anything, she seems to do so as a manipulative method for pushing Max to work harder at improving his craft to finally win a celebrated annual opera competition known as the Singer of Renown. Naturally, that same competition is what Millie will be gunning for in her quest to become a star. In the beginning, Max childishly disrupts Millie’s training sessions, although it’s not before long that he recognizes that she may have exceptional talent and is cooking her dinner while functioning as a secondary tutor to improve her vocal range and chords. Giving credit where it’s due, Danielle Macdonald and Hugh Skinner have sweet chemistry. It’s the conventional gooey kind of romance lacking in actual characterization, but they are likable enough, tasked with working on a duet and pulling so close to one another that they each temporarily lose sight of the prize. Still, one can’t help but feel the movie is more interesting when Max feels threatened by his teacher’s new bright prospect.
Even when Millie is cutting things off with Max thinking about her boyfriend back home (one of Megan’s rules is no outside contact with loved ones), there doesn’t seem to be any gripping conflict within Falling for Figaro. It’s mushy and safe, which is quite strange given the usage of the F-word. It’s nothing more than your average romantic comedy but with more swearing. Some third-act actions from characters are quite ridiculous, even for something like this, that’s not meant to be fully taken seriously. There are some occasional funny bits from the tiny and isolated village needing some repairs or Megan playfully torturing both students, but the approach is all too trite banal, weightless, and cliché to fall for Falling for Figaro.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com