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The Clandestine Marriage Review

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An aristocratic family and one of the nouveau riche variety cross paths when one member of each is about the marriaging age. Farcical chaos follows when everyone falls in love with anyone off-limits.

★★★★★

America's got the Mob, Britain's got the aristocracy: a stratum of society that most people are fascinated by, but know little about - apart from what they garner from the cinema. However, whereas US Mob films and television shows have recently undergone something of a transformation, Britain has resolutely stuck to the recognised "upper crust" format, ultimately to its detriment.

In 1776, the Oglebys, represented by the Lord (Hawthorne) and his fey son, Sir John (Tom Hollander), visit the home of Sterling (Timothy Spall), intending for Sir John to marry Sterling's eldest child, Betsy (Emma Chambers). The two broods could hardly be more different - the Oglebys are of noble blood, but bankrupt, while the Sterlings are "nouveau riche", symbolised by Betsy's haughty sister, Heidelberg (Collins). Unfortunately, things take a turn for the complicated when everyone falls in love with people they're not supposed to, a farcical situation compounded by the fact that the Sterling's youngest daughter, Fanny (Little), is secretly hitched to Lovewell (Nicholls) and is carrying his baby.

It's British through and through, looks wonderful and boasts an impressive ensemble cast. Hawthorne is, as ever, superb, holding the piece together as the roguish sot who still fancies himself as a bit of a ladies' man. Unfortunately, his performance further emphasises the shortcomings of Collins, who is "acting" so damn hard, at times she looks like she's going to burst. Meanwhile, the rest pull their weight - Nicholls and Little make an attractive central couple, while Chambers and Hollander, given not much to do, provoke the odd laugh.

It's a perfectly well-made film, but the question remains: who is it intended for? Despite all its good intentions and embroidered trimmings, this adds nothing new to a well-worn genre.

It's a perfectly well-made film, but the question remains: who is it intended for? Despite all its good intentions and embroidered trimmings, this adds nothing new to a well-worn genre.