Sunday, 28 February 2016

Lessons in Love

Lessons in Love, also known as Some Kind of Beautiful in USA and How To Make Love Like An Englishman in Canada, is a film that I would never choose to watch. The cover of the DVD, the cast, the plot…everything about it would usually push me away. But, as a treat to my mother on a rainy night, I endured the 90 minutes with her. I was expecting an agonising, depressing evening with my head in my hands as director Tom Vaughan emptied an entire box of ‘romantic comedy cliché’ onscreen in front of me. I got that…but I got a little more with it.

Out now on DVD & Blu-Ray, Tom Vaughan’s Lessons in Love tells the story of a charming British poetry professor/womaniser named Richard (Pierce Brosnan) who, after impregnating one of his students, must become a father figure to the child aswell as a partner figure to the mother Kate (Jessica Alba). But when Kate starts seeing another man (Ben McKenzie), Richard’s life falls apart. But what’s this? Kate has a sister? Played by Salma Hayek? Could Richard maybe fall in love with her and have a happy ending?! Of course he bloody could. Lessons in Love is almost painful in its predictability. Every plot development is seen coming from a mile away, right down to Richard’s estranged and hateful father (Malcolm McDowell) whom Richard makes amends with at the end of the film! Yay! Who saw that coming?! But you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Sure, Lessons in Love is predictable. But it isn’t exactly trying to be a suspenseful mystery or thriller. It isn’t trying to keep you on the edge of your seat, wondering whether Pierce will get to have it off with Salma. We all know from the trailer alone that they’ll end up together. It knows its audience is, on the whole, middle aged women – and sons, boyfriends and husbands in the wrong place at the wrong time – and it knows this audience doesn’t care about predictability. They just want pithy romance, funny jokes and a cheesy soundtrack. They get all of this here! And the laughable dialogue – “how can you teach the romantics, when you don’t even have any real feeling?” – is hardly noticeable with such beautiful locations on offer. Lessons in Love mostly takes place in a gorgeous, sun-soaked Californian home which could easily be in Spain. And of course, there’s some beauty to behold walking around onscreen too – Salma Hayek and Jessica Alba still look as good as ever, and with a pale Malcolm McDowell wondering about they look even better by comparison! That said, he’s probably the best thing about the film. Everybody loves a bit of Malcolm McDowell.

Show me one person who says they don’t, and I’ll show you a liar. It’s just a shame that in recent years he has gone the way of all legendary 70s actors and taken almost any job he’s been offered. He’s not quite as bad as De Niro yet, though. Brosnan, Alba and Hayek are all on decent form too – they know why they’re here and they know what they’ve got to do. They get on with it and I haven’t any issues with their work here. I just get the impression that after Love Is All You Need, The Love Punch and A Long Way Down; Pierce is on autopilot within this cheesy genre now. Oh well, he seems happy enough.

At the end of the day, to say Lessons in Love is bad would be to say all romantic comedies are bad. They’re all exactly the same and there’s nothing in this one that makes it any better, or any worse, than the countless efforts before it and the almost infinite supply that Hollywood inevitably have lined up to follow it. It’s predictable, yes. It’s unoriginal, sure. But it’s an easy watch. You can switch off your brain and escape with films like this, which in today’s increasingly violent and dark world, is something we all need. The target audience will love it, and guys, if you watch this with your mum or your partner, you will get major points. That’s always a result, isn’t it?

Lessons in Love ultimately brings nothing remotely new to the genre, but it’s a romantic comedy. It is what it is. 3/5.


Sam Love

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