As a female, I generally find the latest output of romantic comedies to be utter crap. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to make love and pratfalls appealing to the masses so I had little hope for the latest British import, The Decoy Bride to be any good. I honestly only watched it for former Doctor Who David Tennant. I ended up surprised and genuinely swept up the in sweetness of this movie. Sure it’s got a ridiculous premise and falls into many of the romantic comedy traps, but the romance is not of the “end all, be all” variety and our leading ladies are surprisingly dynamic. If anything our romantic leading man is a bit weak. Further proof that in all genres, the Brits do it better.
International movie star Lara Tyler (Alice Eve) can’t seem to get married to author James Arber (David Tennant) without the paparazzi finding her. So the two decide to go to a remote Scottish island for some privacy. Katie (Kelly Macdonald) has recently returned to the same island, her hometown, after a failed marriage and discovers the madness that a Hollywood wedding is doing to her small town. When Lara goes missing, Katie’s recruited by her team to be the decoy bride in the hopes that a fake pre-ceremony will fool the reporters. Instead, Katie and James go on an adventure to find Lara, and both come to realize their fake wedding might be a bit too legal.
On the basic level, The Decoy Bride is on par with a screwball comedy. The premise is the epitome of high concept as not only do you have a famous actress attempting to get married secretly, but there’s the added plot of Katie and James being married during the fake ceremony. The numerous plots and side characters trying to complicate things and expands at an alarming rate as not only do you have the manipulative manager of our star, played with added smarm by Michael Urie, but there’s the rascally paparazzo and numerous nosy inhabitants of the island. For a small budgeted film they definitely got their money’s worth.
The film would have ultimately failed if not for the dynamic leads. I mentioned above the female characters were fleshed out and that’s to the movie’s advantage. Kelly Macdonald is so sweet in this movie, drawing comparisons to a Scottish Natalie Portman. I’ve loved Macdonald since No Country for Old Men and here she’s so sweet and self-deprecating. She’s a real female whose been hurt by love, is loveably awkward, and doesn’t feel her life is over because she’s not married. In fact she has dreams of creating a travel guide to her small town of Hegg, that she works on amongst the madness of the film’s events.
Even the character you’d assume to be shallow, stupid, or a villain, our movie star, is a woman with real feelings. Alice Eve doesn’t have quite the meat or story as Macdonald does but the script gives her a character. It’s alluded to that Lara Tyler has been a film star since the age of 15 and while she does want to retire to make James happy, she’s proud of her acting. She’s not stupid or shallow, but is one of the few people whose read Jame’s overly indulgent and lengthy novel (you have no idea how happy it made me to see a character who reads). She’s a good person with a big heart and could have easily devolved into caricature.
With the strength of the females that leaves David Tennant floundering a bit. Sure he’s adorable, the man was the best Doctor Who in my opinion, but he’s a bit more stock than the other characters. The only real bits of character we discover is that he didn’t visit the location where his book is set and he’s got writer’s block….yeah a bit dull compared to the ladies but hey that’s the only thing I can complain about.
I take that back, there are a few things that are standard romantic comedy tropes that this movie falls back on. Katie and James are together for the better part of a day and a romance blossoms but hell, with all these high concepts stories floating in the air it’s only natural that the romance is a bit contrived. The acting really elevates this above its premise and is a sweet movie worth seeing through Amazon Instant or on import DVD.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.