Bentonville Film Festival Review: “FALLING FOR FIGARO” (2021)

Standard

“FALLING FOR FIGARO” gives Millie (Danielle McDonald) an American living in the U.K., has a thriving career as a fund manager and lives with her boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latiff), who attends the opera because she truly loves it. Charlie does not. So it’s really not a surprise when she upends a promotion at her job, to become an opera star and wants to compete in the renowned ‘Singer of Renown’ contest. But of course first she must learn opera – you know that style of singing that takes a lifetime to learn and be good at. Well for Millie things are going to go on the fast track, because well, of course it is, and she is going to learn this entire lifetime of something as sacred and acclaimed as being an lead opera singer – in a year.

She in turn moves to the remote Scottish Highlands where she wants to be taught by one Megan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley), a once legendary opera singer in her own right. There is one problem, Geoffrey-Bishop is retired and is notoriously known for being a big pain in the arse, completely horrible to her students, believing in the old adage of an opera singer must ‘suffer’ in order to be able to sing. This all of course does not deter Millie in the slightest and there she is checking into ‘The Filthy Pig’ pub/hotel and is welcomed by pub owner played by Gary Lewis, who is quite funny in his introduction. Here as well, we are introduced to Max (Hugh Skinner), who doubles as the cook/server, as well as anything else that is needed. Crazily enough, Max is ALSO a student of Megan’s, in fact he has been singing his whole life and has been a student for five years and wait for it, is also shooting to win the competition. I think we all know where this is heading from here. Of course Max is jealous and upset at first, then they start singing together and well the rest is rom-com history.

Look, I get it, this is what rom-coms are, sappy, cheesy, where there is always something stopping them from finding ‘true love’ until there isn’t. But it also needs to be a teensy bit believability to pull it off really well and this just isn’t that. What can be said and what director Ben Lewin, did pull off nicely was having two things that made it pleasant enough to still give it a watch. The first of course is the music. Opera can be simply beautiful and while we don’t know if the actors really sang this (somehow I highly doubt they did), it was beautifully done and fun to watch. The second thing is casting the simply wonderful Joanna Lumley as yes, ‘Patsy’ makes this movie watchable, as do a few fun takes from Gary Lewis, but mostly, it’s Lumley who shines the brightest and the best. And that’s perfectly fine in my book.

Grade: C

Follow me on twitter: @pegsatthemovies or Instagram: Peggyatthemovies

Review Screening ~ Courtesy of the Bentonville Film Festival

Falling for Figaro debuts in theaters on Friday, October 1st from IFC Films

REVIEW: “MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” (2018) Universal Pictures

Standard

Oh my my my my “MAMMA MIA!! HERE WE GO AGAIN” had me from the moment one with my devotion and love for true icons ABBA & C-H-E-R all in one movie. What I didn’t expect, was an actual good movie.

Starting off, this sequel to ‘Mamma Mia’, which also presents itself as a prequel, in my world, this is a two-for-one deal of epic-ness that I loved from the get go. “Here We Go Again” has a much better story line than the original, and while all your faves return, you also make some great new ones. Writer/director Ol Parker – gets some good deeper cuts in, too with this being a new, complex and more mature story involving the characters we’ve known, and sang and danced along with for the past decade. The film quickly establishes the parallel stories with it’s fantastic opening number of “I Kissed A Teacher” and boom! we are introduced to the world of a young Donna (played terrifically by Lily James). Moving along back into the world of Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is re-opening the hotel her mom Donna (Meryl Streep) ran. Donna died the previous year (this isn’t really isn’t a spoiler). In her mom’s honor, Sophie has renovated the place and is ready for a big celebration, with nearly every important person in her life invited, including Sam (Pierce Brosnan) and Donna’s Dynamo sisters – Tanya (Christine Baranski) and Rosie (Julie Walters).

“Here We Go Again” explores within it’s flashbacks, a vibrant and spontaneous Donna of the 1970’s, as she seeks an adventurous life – and we see how she meets the three younger versions of the men whom will play major roles in her life – Harry (Hugh Skinner), Bill (Josh Dylan) and Sam (Jeremy Irvine). It would take more space than I have to touch on every performance, so I’ll just sum it up and highlight a few. With this turn as Donna, Lily James is now officially a STAR as she will charm the socks off of you. In one simple, minute-long scene, Brosnan redeems himself for his lack of singing ability from the original. And in spectacular fashion with white silk wig and pantsuit to match, the one..the only..Cher makes a grand entrance in the final act as Sophie’s grandma… and instantly captivates the screen. And though how she gets to the point of singing is a big spoiler that I just can’t reveal, I will happily admit to yelling out “YES! YES! YES” when it did happen, media screening or not. (no one usually does something like this during them – but I wasn’t alone in my squealing joy of this.. so 🙂 )

Every single person here, from our older versions of Harry (Colin Firth) & Bill (Stellan Skarsgård) doing a bit of ‘Titanic’ for us all, to Fernando (Andy Garcia) & Sky (Dominic Cooper), looks like they’re having an absolute blast, and that happiness is resonates throughout the film and spreads to the audience. ‘Here We Go Again’ provides a carefree, yet meaningful, fun energy that’s so hard to find these days, even in musicals. I got chills during performances of “Mamma Mia!” and “Dancing Queen”, though those are saved till a little later in the film, as the first half has some of Abba’s lesser known hits dominating – though a true ABBA fan will know them!

Sure Mamma Mia 2! might not be perfect – and I might be a sap for anything musical related to ABBA & Cher – but I can guarantee a good time will be had by all who see it. And the beautiful, sweet final scene has a spirit all its own, touching on loss and new life in ways that will hit very close to home. I can only say — I do, I do, I do, I DO want you to see this film.

Grade: B
@pegsatthemovies

Media Review Screening: Monday, July 16, 2018 ~ Courtesy of Universal Pictures
“MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN” WILL BE OUT NATIONWIDE/WORLDWIDE ON FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2018