Bridal magazine Confetti offers a luxury home for the couple with the most original wedding of the year. The finalists — whose nuptial themes are a Broadway musical, a tennis match and a nudist rite — find that pre-marital jitters and family tensions are exacerbated by competitive pressures.
Here’s a cute, silly affair that may be just the ticket if you are in need of visual aid to deter a crazed intended from plotting wedding overkill. A hundred-odd minutes of the ludicrous matrimonial mania on show here makes a quick, quiet little registry office ceremony look like the height of taste and class.
Confetti owes most of its laughs (the tone here suggests a conscious effort to progress from the ‘niceness’ of Working Title’s genre dominance) to a seasoned company of ‘cringe comedians’ that enfolds stand-ups and British TV comedy sparks, many of them familiar from Peep Show, The Office, Spaced, Alan Partridge, Green Wing et al, as well as improvisational veteran Alison Steadman in its ensemble.
And who doesn’t get a kick out of a kooky mockumentary? But ever since This Is Spinal Tap nailed the rock documentary, the bar has been mighty high for faux fly-on-the-wall parody, with Christopher Guest still pre-eminent in the field. Whereas Guest’s documentary-like structures and improvs foster sharp but fundamentally affectionate observations of real human behaviour, however absurdly extreme, director Debbie ‘Nasty Neighbours’ Isitt is having more of a satirical crack at the unreality of TV-type ‘reality’ — from the surreal Bridezilla series on down.
The trigger is conniving publishing folk (Jimmy Carr, Felicity Montagu) who need a stunt to boost their bridal-style mag, and duly interview a string of ridiculous couples. The three pliant pairs they settle on are pretty lame themselves. Most believable are couple number one, Matt and Sam (Martin Freeman and Jessica Stevenson). These two are sweeties who love musicals and want to play Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers on their big day — if they can nudge mother-of-the-bride Steadman and Sam’s pushy cruise entertainer sister out of the spotlight for once.
Couple number two, jealous, controlling Josef and put-upon Isabelle (Stephen Mangan and Meredith MacNeill), are highly-strung, aggressive tennis enthusiasts whose ceremony on a mocked-up court with ball boy attendants and an umpire celebrant involves rather a lot of puns about balls. Mangan shines as the most unpleasant contender and delivers the best petulant outbursts: “Please get it into your thick head how much I respect you!”
Couple number three, Michael and Joanna (Robert Webb and Olivia Colman, who deserve some kind of a prize for letting it all hang out with such seeming nonchalance), are dippy naturists whose hopes for a dignified and spiritual experience au naturel seem doomed the minute Confetti’s editor realises that nudes on the cover sell mags of the upper-rack variety, but not one pushing satin Cinderella gowns and out-of-control consumerism.
Upstaging all of them are the squealing, wildly enthusiastic wedding planners, Gregory and Archie (Jason Watkins and Vincent Franklin), a dandy duo who appear to have been styled sartorially on eccentric artists Gilbert and George but as characters are very much in the queenie panto tradition of the two camp dudes that Martin Short and B. D. Wong played in the Steve Martin Father Of The Bride. That they are fairly hilarious is probably something we should be heartily ashamed of, since swishy cinematic wedding planners/interior decorators/choreographers are as stereotypical as the fey hamsters in that bizarro credit card advert. But hey, satire and sensitivity, not a good match.
The expected highlight — the actual weddings, performed one after another before judges — falls a little short since the clearly modest budget delivers something closer to a school revue than parodic spectacle. It also dawdles long enough to set you wondering about details, like, “Why don’t the tennis players have any friends?” and, “How is it that when performing her vows, Sam suddenly has a pair of pipes like Ruthie Henshall when she was previously tone deaf?” We’d argue that their efforts would be funnier if the singing and dancing were more toe-curling — like Round One of X Factor auditions. In this respect, Confetti doesn’t quite manage to keep up the courage of its convictions.
Apparently, having established the concept and situations, Isitt had the cast improvise all the dialogue; now we know why Mike Leigh improvises before shooting but has a script down cold when the cameras actually roll. The actors riffing here are funny up to a point; their body language and expressions are more eloquent than the dialogue. A wordsmith honing the better ideas would have trimmed the flab, and since Isitt is a playwright one would have hoped for tighter content, more pointed and more consistent in tone. Still, it’s cheerfully daft enough to be good fun, and even if you won’t be quoting it the next day, it’ll keep you laughing from start to finish.
The performances of the chiefly Brit-com cast remain spot-on, but for nails-on-blackboard brilliance, top honours go to Alison Steadman; best pain in the arse mother-in-law ever.