Film Review: Finding Your Feet

A game cast hits every predictable mark in this uninspiring comedy-drama from Britain.
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Things go abruptly topsy-turvy for haughty retiree Sandra (Imelda Staunton) when she discovers that her husband Mike (John Sessions) has been having an affair with her best friend, Pamela (Josie Lawrence). Having suffered a very public humiliation, Sandra escapes with what’s left of her dignity to hide out with her estranged sister, Elizabeth (Celia Imrie), a bon vivant known to friends as Bif, and the polar opposite of chilly, judgmental Sandra.

Despite their differences, Bif and Sandra share a loving sisterly bond that Staunton and Imrie polish into one of the few bright spots in this too-formulaic addition to the oft-enchanting British romantic sub-genre, starring Harry Potter and Mike Leigh vets taking a second, fifth or eighth chance on finding love and happiness. Once Bif introduces stodgy Sandra to her community dance class, and friends Charles (Timothy Spall), Jackie (Joanna Lumley) and Ted (David Hayman), the film should be off to the races, or the big dance finale that everyone knows is coming.

But much like a laughably slow-paced vehicular getaway that putters through mid-movie, Finding Your Feet doesn’t reach full speed. Strapped to Sandra’s new life awakening, the dramedy ambles ahead, sure to telegraph or underline each and every outcome for anyone who hasn’t seen the trailer, or a movie.

Predictability wouldn’t be an egregious infraction here if it seemed there’d been more effort to develop the distinguishing details beyond quips about the ice bucket challenge and dancing Gangnam-style. At one point, Charlie teaches Sandra to dance the Harlem Shake. It’s not embarrassing, but it’s not good. Also not particularly funny in this depiction is Bif’s tendency towards hoarding, though it’s played mostly for laughs between siblings.

Director Richard Loncraine, working from a script by Meg Leonard and Nick Moorcroft, appears to hang all hope on guiding his aces cast comfortably through the punch lines and line dances. Certainly he hasn’t done much to curb the lack of visual appeal. The look and design are a bit stale, right down to one ill-advised perm intended to signal Sandra’s rebirth as a modern single woman. There is an array of distractingly inapt hats as well, and the aforementioned punch lines don’t offer much help. “Don’t worry, we will get it,” encourages the dance instructor. “If I don’t have a coronary first,” comes the groan-worthy reply.

It’s undoubtedly a pleasure to see Staunton as a romantic lead, though one wishes for her a better-handling vehicle than this one, with a swifter script. It’s either depressing, or just contrived writing, that Sandra’s daughter doesn’t have the good sense or consideration to leave gifts from Dad’s new woman at home when she comes to visit Sandra. The film’s heroine also could use a more nimble waltz partner than Spall’s Charles, who does not bring his charm to the dance floor.

The movie goes out of its way to show Sandra warming up to gruff Charles upon spying him lending a friend a shoulder to cry on, a moment framed as if Charles had given the guy a kidney. And it tries to stir up some of that Full Monty-meets-Shall We Dance flavor in the musical numbers, but that spirit doesn’t rise. Rather, permeating the dances and much of this affair is a distinct air of Let’s just get on with this, shall we? Even Lumley emits a lack of enthusiasm one never detects in her outings as “AbFab”’s lovable Patsy Stone. But then, her “AbFab” partner-in-crime and series creator Jennifer Saunders might have worked wonders with a premise like this, or at least might have worked in some better jokes.

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