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Falling for Figaro – movie review

This enjoyable if somewhat formulaic romantic comedy comes from Australian filmmaker Ben Lewin, who gave us The Sessions with Helen Hunt and John Hawkes in 2012.

Successful and ambitious fund manager Millie (Danielle Macdonald,) quits her job just as she receives a promotion and sets out to become an opera singer. This despite having no experience of singing apart from in the shower. She is determined to compete in the Singers of Renown competition, a talent show that gives the ultimate winner a chance to perform with a major opera company. Her boss and boyfriend Charlie (played by Shazad Latif from The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) is no fan of opera music and at first is skeptical of her decision to quit her job to follow her unrealistic dream.

Undeterred Millie heads into the Scottish Highlands to a small remote town where she engages the services of former diva Meghan Jeffrey-Bishop (Jennifer Saunders, from the hit TV series Absolutely Fabulous) to give her singing lessons and help her prepare for the competition. Meghan is acerbic and obnoxious with a caustic line of putdowns, and initially she refuses to train Millie until Millie offers to pay above her normal fee.

Millie quickly discovers that Meghan is also training the handsome Max (Hugh Skinner, who played the younger version of Colin Firth’s character in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again), who has been trying to win the competition for five years. The two begin as rivals as Max resents her presence and deliberately sets out to sabotage her auditions for Meghan. But soon the attraction between them becomes obvious and a tentative romance blossoms. And Millie soon warms to the rustic charms of the small town and the eccentric locals who gather at the local pub, the Filthy Pig, where she stays for the duration of her lessons with Meghan.

Scripted by Lewin and first-time feature writer Allen Palmer, Falling for Figaro is a feel-good romantic comedy, but it is a little formulaic and predictable, with some cliched characters and it is chock full of the usual tropes of the genre. However, it is enjoyable enough and will certainly appeal to audiences. The local scenery is gorgeous and has been beautifully captured by cinematographer Nic Lawson (TV series Deep State). The music score is also superb, even for those not usually interested in opera.

Macdonald and Skinner share a good chemistry here. Their singing voices were dubbed, but the lip synching is finely integrated into the film. Macdonald brings a natural and likeable quality to her performance. Lumley is a treat as the acerbic, obnoxious Meghan and she obviously relishes the role. She delivers some wonderful one-liners and vitriolic dialogue with style. The solid supporting cast includes Gary Lewis (Billy Elliott) as the local publican, and some of his regulars who seem invested in Max’s success but who also take a liking to the plucky Millie.

Greg King

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