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Centered around a salsa club, three men pursue three women across London. Fergus is trying to find his ex-girlfriend, the elderly charmer Frankie the beautiful Eleanor and the robber Eddie is trying to find one of his victims, cemetery worker Jocelyn. Written by
[after opening a gift from Eddie]
Why me? Why buy this? Why are you so interested in me?
Don't you like it?
It's-it's the best present anyone's ever bought me.
What's wrong with that?
I'm a weirdo. Look, if-if you like me, you must be a weirdo as well.
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A delightful British comedy involving three couples attempting to get together, `Born Romantic,' written and directed by David Kane, is a lighthearted, feel-good film set to a heartbeat, as well as a `Salsa' beat. It features a number of engaging performances, and offers a contemplation on life with moments that alternate between funny and poignant; enjoyable fare that leaves the `baggage' of the world behind for awhile to concentrate on the more personal, intimate aspects of what makes the world go round, and a pleasant diversion it is.
A cab driver, Jimmy (Adrian Lester), and a Salsa club are the binding threads of the story, through which the lives of the individual characters intersect. Mo (Jane Horrocks), jilted at the alter some eight years before by Fergus (David Morrissey), has moved on with her life, finding solace in men and the Latin rhythms of a local Salsa club. What she doesn't know is that Fergus, regretting that long ago decision, is back in town looking for her. Meanwhile, a somewhat passive petty thief named Eddie (Jimi Mistry), after a botched mugging ends up at the club, where he falls under the spell of a rather odd bird named Jocelyn (Catherine McCormack). Then there's Frankie (Craig Ferguson), who happens by the club where he meets Eleanor (Olivia Williams); but Frankie fancies himself a latter-day Dean Martin (`Did you see Ocean's Eleven?' he asks her at one point), and Eleanor is simply not having any of it. And it all becomes a series of ups-and-downs, ins-and-outs and highs-and-lows, as these six attempt to connect with (or avoid) one another. Along the way there is music and dancing, and without a doubt, love is in the air.
There are some subtle insights into human nature to be gleaned from this one, but mostly it's for fun and entertainment, a film that will put a smile on your face and occasionally cause you to take pause and perhaps reflect upon the state of things in your own life, as there are elements in the situations and characters depicted here that are no doubt going to hit close to home for many in the audience. To tell his story, Kane sets a brisk pace and never lets it lag, and his transitions between the storylines are executed perfectly, which gives the film a rhythm and flow that takes the viewer along with it. He has a terrific ensemble cast with which to work, and he makes the most of their talents, as evidenced by the succinct development of no less than seven characters, to the extent that you have a good grasp of who each of these individuals are and what makes them tick. And with a steady hand, Kane exacts the kind of performances that really brings it all to life.
As Frankie, the guy who tries so hard to be cool a la Dean Martin, Craig Ferguson hits the mark perfectly. If you were around in the days of the `real' Rat Pack, you no doubt knew this guy; he was the one with the affected smoothness, all the right moves (at least in his own mind) and the appropriate `nomenclature.' He could be fun for awhile, but any impression he made was mostly on himself. Happily, Ferguson captures the essence of that guy, but only the good parts. He manages to leave the boorish elements behind and opens up enough to let you see the `real' Frankie, who in reality is just a guy trying to get on with it and do the best he can. Coming off a bad marriage, he simply wants to find something (someone) good to share his life with. It's a good performance by Ferguson, who is probably best known as Mr. Wick on the `Drew Carey' television show.
Jane Horrocks (the phenomenal talent of `Little Voice') also gives a convincing performance, as does David Morrissey as Fergus. Together they make their situation believable, rather than a depiction of some ersatz fairy tale. The development of their relationship as they attempt to reconcile rings true, which makes the romantic angle all the more real and unaffected.
The most endearing couple of the bunch, however, is Jocelyn and Eddie, who prove that when it comes to romance, the odd and the eccentric will find each other, one way or another. Catherine McCormack is a delight as Jocelyn, a role that is decidedly unglamorous, but a character in which there is a unique charm nevertheless; one which McCormack finds and displays in a sensitive, sympathetic way that shines through from behind an (unattractive) pair of glasses, a neck brace and an introverted, introspective bearing. And it's touching to see Eddie, a misfit of the lowest order-- played perfectly by Mistry-- drawn to this quirky woman, in whom he is able to discern a beauty that is truly more than skin deep.
The most striking of all, however, is Eleanor, as played by Olivia Williams. Adopting a rather hardened exterior as a way of avoiding any real intimacy or commitment, Eleanor is something of a mystery woman, and Williams has a charismatic screen presence that sells it perfectly. Like Ferguson, she opens up just enough to let you see what lies beneath, and it adds a deeper perspective to her portrayal of Eleanor, and you come to understand why Frankie is drawn to her.
Finally, Adrian Lester is effective as Jimmy, the cab driver who bears the weight of a dramatic event in his own life, which is his secret alone. Jimmy is a pivotal character in the play, and Lester's portrayal lends some of the more poignant moments to the film.
Rounding out the cast are Ian Hart (Second Cab Driver), John Thomas (First Cab), Kenneth Cranham (Barney) and Louise Delamere (Maria). An upbeat story presented with music and a smile, `Born Romantic' offers a romantic interlude that cuts to the chase and leaves the baggage at the door; in all, it's a fun and satisfying experience. 8/10.
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