I do not have a very good track record with Romantic Comedies. Most of the mainstream ones released these days involve horribly demonizing a woman for whatever reason or they involve gross humor on the part of the guy or a scene where a woman belches excessively to show that she’s not just an idol on a porcelain pedestal. Also, they are often from the perspective of the guy, as apparently it’s easy to paint men as blundering in love, but women have ‘serious’ romance movies.
Anyway, the point of all this is that The Decoy Bride is a Romantic Comedy, from the perspective of the woman (two of them, actually) and involves no gross out humor, no demonizing of either of the women in this tale, and only contains one heavily contrived situation to get the movie started. Also, it’s quite funny and charming, and I enjoyed it heavily.
It stars Kelly MacDonald (star of the recent Pixar movie, Brave) as a failed writer living on a very tiny island in Scotland. It’s a quirky island of less than 80 inhabitants, of which she’s the only woman who is unmarried (or even has a date). The island of this film is as much of a cast member as MacDonald or David Tennant (of Doctor Who fame) who plays opposite of her as a fairly unremarkable novelist whose single book was exceptional overwrought and long, but happened to take place on the small Scottish island that MacDonald lives on.
The plot is set in motion by Tennant’s fiancée, Alice Eve (recently in Men in Black 3) who is a mega-star actress that has a persistent paparazzi following her around. She is not a starlet at all, however, and has decided to retire and kick off her non-acting life with a quiet, personal wedding… which has been disrupted several times by the paparazzi barging in and trying to snap a photo. She’s had enough and decides to ensconce herself away to the small, quiet setting of her favorite book… the one written by her fiancée.
When the paparazzi still follows her to the island, it sets in motion a collision between MacDonald and Tennant, who end up meeting, and then are asked to engage in a deception: to wed one another to throw off the Paparazzi and get them to disburse, then allow Tennant and Eve to have their quiet ceremony. When this goes horribly wrong, Tennant and Eve find themselves roaming the island having charming conversation and slowly falling for one another.
What makes this movie work, however, is its respect to the characters. Tennant’s character is aware he’s in dangerous waters and refuses to let himself get too entrenched. He turns out to be an honest, faithful and decent person who acknowledges his feelings but absolutely will not betray someone for his own wandering interests. MacDonald’s character is also respected by showing her truly endearing qualities while also demonstrating her self-defeating personality traits that have prevented her from standing out before now. And together, they complement one another and allow each other to evolve past their current situation into a better one.
Meanwhile, Eve’s character, who could easily have been turned into a harpy or an evil obstacle in the way of the main characters, is ALSO allowed to evolve past her hang-ups and ends up in a better place at the end of the film as well. If her character is betrayed in any way, it’s that we never quite learn enough about her as a person, as the film devotes most of its time to the growing Tennant/MacDonald romance and Eve gets the short end of the rope. Still, she never appears ‘crazy’ or nefarious in any way.
The greatest shame of this film, really, is how disconnected Eve’s personal revelation is to the Tennant/MacDonald romance. They could be entirely different stories, in fact, and their joined resolution comes across as incredibly convenient. The fact that everyone ends up happy in the end is exceptionally tidy, but this isn’t intended to be deep drama. And to have a modern romantic comedy end where nobody is demonized, nobody is screwed over, and everyone ends up better off afterwards… well, that’s just incredibly refreshing.