Thursday, May 21, 2020

film review: Military Wives

Directed by Peter Cattaneo

Written by Rosanne Flynn & Rachel Tunnard

ChinoKino score: C

Review by Allan Tong

Military Wives has all the ingredients to add up to a rousing feel-good comedy. A group of disparate British women are united by a cause (their partners are soldiers fighting in Afghanistan); they band together to perform (a choir) so they're on a musical journey; the film's director made the smash hit, The Full Monty; the great Kristin Scott-Thomas is the lead; and there's lots of singing. Audiences should be cheering these ladies as they endure bad news from the war front and find solace in each other. We should be swept away by their voices and stories as they struggle to literally find their voices.

Sadly, we don't. The film is a by-the-numbers affair that  rarely raises a laugh or smile and doesn't emotionally draw us into the lives of these women. Rather, the film feels cold and distant. I never felt like the wives become pals. They lack camaraderi.e True, they share their sorrows over bad news and there are moments of genuine friendship, but it's not enough to ignite this film.

Another problem is the key relationship between Scott Thomas, who plays Kate, the stuffy wife of an officer, and the working class Lisa (played by Sharon Horgan). On paper, their personality clash should spark. However, it doesn't help that Scott Thomas is typecast as another stuffy, humourless British woman. She's capable of comedy in the right role. Perhaps she should have taken the Lisa role to allow her to flex her comedic wings. Horgan delivers a decent performance, but she and Scott Thomas just don't spark. We see their clashes coming a mile away. Kate wants to rehearse to tried and true numbers, but Lisa prefers to improvise and create a new song.

Don't get me wrong. I like The Fully Monty and music films. I was rooting for Military Wives to deliver, but was disappointed that it didn't. The pacing is leaden, and outside of the choir scenes, there's a lack of music on the soundtrack to shape mood. Where's the energy?

Is Military Wives a disaster? Not at all. The premise is strong, based on true stories, and the film offers its moments. The material respects the real-life military wives and feels sincere. But that sincerity isn't enough to make this film shine. Rather, it sounds flat.

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