Relative Values

Relative Values


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

You would have thought it hard to adapt a Noel Coward play and forget about wit. Despite solid backup from Stephen Fry, Sophie Thompson and Colin Firth, this misses the boat by miles and even swops traditional upper-class silliness for vulgar Yank bashing.

Julie Andrews plays an aristocratic matriarch, with a socking great stately home, whose eldest (Edward Atterton) has announced his engagement to a Hollywood movie star (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Naturally, everyone is appalled.

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There is no hiding its origins in drawing room comedy. The butler (Fry) is a wise old cove and the housekeeper (Thompson) has become part of the family. There is a gaggle of chamber maids, who overhear things through keyholes, as they do in this sort of thing.

William Baldwin is Clark Gable to Tripplehorn's Carole Lombard. He flies from California, where he should be making a Western, to woo her away from her English lord. He drinks Scotch-on-the-rocks every hour of the day and can't be bothered with stuffy local habits. Although he doesn't know how to behave, he's a likeable fellow who gives autographs to Girl Guides at the gate.

The look of the film has been influenced by the contents of a dressing up trunk and the style lacks Coward's lightness of touch. Atterton is ineffectual, without Bertie Wooster's good nature. Firth provides a sarcastic, easy going impersonation of an habitual sponger to perfection. His role, as a cousin of some kind, is irrelevant.

Tripplehorn hams into a vacuum, while Baldwin doesn't have the sex appeal. Thompson is terrific, all atwitter, and Fry offers sensible advice below stairs.

In her non-singing comeback, Andrews is more like a sympathetic headmistress. As Lady Bracknell would have put it, she hasn't the bones to be a Countess.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Relative Values packshot
English comedy of manners and mix ups.
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Director: Eric Styles

Writer: Paul Ratigan, Michael Walker based on the play by Noel Coward

Starring: Julie Andrews, William Baldwin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Colin Firth, Sophie Thompson, Stephen Fry, Edward Atterton

Year: 1999

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK


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