Porter Stoddard is a well-known New York architect who is at a crossroads... a nexus where twists and turns lead to myriad missteps, some with his wife Ellie, others with longtime friends ... See full summary »
This BAFTA-nominated comedy by Peter Chelsom is so good it needs a few words of praise on IMDb. I saw it at a short film production seminar in the mid-1990s, where it was introduced by the commissioning editor for '10x10', the BBC strand that financed the production and originally broadcast it.
The script fizzes with such originality that at first it occurs to you that it's an extended sketch with very high production values, but very quickly the character and pathos of the subject takes over, and you are drawn in to a world that has utterly vanished from England, the end-of-the-pier variety turn.
Affectingly shot in black and white, the film is set in Blackpool (Chelsom's hometown, and location of his later 'Funny Bones'), and follows the self-doubting grandson (Tomkinson, excellent) of a popular - but recently deceased - music hall entertainer, who has plans to follow him onto the stage. This summary is really all the story that there is; The joy of the film is that by great writing and nuanced acting alone, the characters all share the seedy world of stalled ambition and jaded weariness that exists between close-knit 'theatrical entertainers' and their families.
The title refers to a jokey double-entendre laden song that's energetically performed on-stage by Tomkinson in the finale. There is no better calling-card to the big boys than a compact, spare and utterly compelling movie about quirky people and real emotions, and this film has it in spades, so why is our movie business utterly obsessed with features?
If you're at all interested in making short films or just writing them, take a look at this short and witness how performance and script can be whole lot more dramatic and emotionally engaging than plot or action. Perhaps the only downside to note is that Chelsom, like Bruce Robinson, hasn't followed his amazing debut with a successful career and dazzling celebrity. Still, if he never exposes another frame, at least he made Treacle.
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