It’s unfair to dismiss Finding Your Feet, directed by Richard Loncraine, as mere late-life rom-com, but there is a tiresome quality to the shenanigans here. We know the outcome from practically the first frame. We know the perpetually iced and haughty Lady Abbot (Imelda Staunton) will thaw. We know the left-wing firebrand sister (Celia Imrie) and the good-with-his-hands Charlie (Timothy Spall) will be part of that melt. We know that the seniors struggling with betrayals and heartaches and cruel realities will bring their hard-earned wisdom to the younger crowd watching this film.
But will there be any people under 50 watching this film? Anyone under 60? Anyone?
It’s formulaic. It’s froth. It’s fun. It’s forgettable.
Which also describes cotton candy. Leave your cynicism behind for a couple of hours and enjoy the sugary snack. Just don’t hate yourself in the morning. Like cotton candy at the carnival, you know exactly what it’s going to taste like. You know it’s just spun sugar and air. But you eat it. It’s fun when that smell tickles your nose. There’s a happiness as your tongue laps up into the edible floating cloud, dissolving that slightly gritty sugar to the back of the throat. But then you feel a bit queasy and sick to your stomach, thinking, what did I just eat?
The Brits call it candy floss, and that seems just right, for I had fun with these empty calories in this British-made film. Finding Your Feet is filmed in pastoral Surrey with its herbaceous borders at the country manor home and in London with its tiny flats, canal boats, and frigid swimming hole at Hampstead Heath. With its stellar British cast, likely all trained as Shakespeare thespians, the best bet for you is to take Victoria’s advice on how to endure sex: just lie back and think of England. There are no more demands on you than that. After the show, go to a local English pub for a summer shandy or a park for a summer shag.
Just don’t dwell too long on the total implausibility of the entire concoction. As one wag commented, you can see every plot twist coming even without your bifocals. There’s a too-literal soundtrack of pop tunes and waltzes. There are choreographed dance numbers and a Piccadilly Circus flash mob. And if there are far-fetched developments like that sudden invitation to Rome to perform in a Euro-concert charity performance, well, it still goes down like a taste-free soft-serve gelato. Besides, why not take a road trip, all expenses paid, to the eternal city and throw some coins in the fountain?
There are the requisite zingers to keep the audience awake. I plan on getting mileage from “We divorced for religious differences. My husband thought he was God. I didn’t.”
Now, get over yourself and forget all that ticking and twitching as the cliched story unfolds, for you certainly enjoyed it when these hoary tropes were used before. Old-age dance troupes worked miracles in Gotta Dance. Seniors were up for adventure and change-of-direction in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. 70-somethings can enjoy weed and the high life in Saving Grace. The British working class deserves its crack at stardom and The Full Monty proved it. There is an erotic life after 60 and Calendar Girls said so. Even Victoria with her hairy hunk Abdul proved in Victoria & Abdul that old age is no impediment to finding post-menopausal bliss.
So, Finding Your Feet takes those very same pieces and melds them into a sweetish movie with occasional charms.
These guys are pros and they know how to sell a role. It's wonderful seeing these performers of a certain age be able to strut their stuff. Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman and Joanna Lumley are all a pleasure to watch. But, oh, if they had just been given something more substantial to chew on. Staunton and Imrie as the sisters — seemingly diametric opposites who discover their basic commonality and humanity — are delicious. Spall, who most often looks like a mournful basset hound, is always a pleasure to watch, and his Charlie has a story particularly compelling and heart-breaking.
Any of us of a certain age watch and tremble in scary identification and what-if.
The dire realities of aging — terminal illness, immobility, dementia, death — are given short shrift, then back to the candy floss. Easy to eat, simple to swallow, a few laughs, a few tears, no demands on the system.
If there’s such a thing as geezer-bait, then this is it.