Okay, this one is aimed at us with a true and steady hand. Calculating, one might say. For Imelda Staunton and the staff of Hogwarts are old folk, bourgeois, working class or hippyish depending on what you’re prepared to believe, enduring age through the joy of dance and embarking on one last adventure: dance-related and emotional. Staunton is snobby Sandra, 35 years into a marriage to pompously Welsh and unfaithful John Sessions, finds Sessions and the cold-souled Josie Lawrence having a snog at his retirement party, and is propelled into shedding her snobberies with long-estranged sister Bif (Celia Imrie) in Finding Your Feet.
So far so RichardCurtisWorld. Staunton leaves her mighty Surrey house, lovingly shot from above in a pan across careerists’ paradise, and stalks stumpily into her sister’s world of council flats, impoverished oldsters and…okay, old Jack here spent much of his time looking for folk of colour. They’re certainly there, what with this being ‘real’ London, but it sure ain’t in the foreground. Think of it as Old Skool Luvviedon.
The strength of the film, even as you feel it bitch-slapping reactions from you, is the performances of the likes of Staunton, Imrie (as Bif, giving good posh and odd), Timothy Spall (as Charlie, oddly calming as he glides through scenes, stares and catches Staunton’s heart), Joanna Lumley (as Jackie, an ex barrister, glamorously grey and quality background filler), and David Hayman (as Ted, a grieving senior, running out of ‘our song’ dances). They skip through a predictably shaped story, with unoccasional fresh gags, supporting Staunton’s inevitable journey from uptightness to thrashingly nervous dancer to re-engaged and emotional sister.
Look, this is bright, funny, obvious and utterly formulaic. Staunton fights with Imrie, finally warms up as she’s dragged to Bif’s multi-cultural (if you look for it) dance class, gets to know Spall’s nearly-widowed Charlie (his wife has dementia…so…hmmmm, here comes a touch of Remember (2015) plotting), and the roar of deus ex unlikely propels the group to a weekend in Rome through the power of a flash mob and the YouTube.
And then comes death. I sighed. Pick the most energetic and sympathetic character and give them cancer – and film-cancer at that. Tragic coughing, some inhaler business, a secret shared with no-one but the leads…
Old Jack watched this on a dull afternoon with Placid Petunia and Timid Tina. They smiled throughout, loving its quality actors and shock-free plotting. I didn’t. I recognised the quality of the performances, certainly, but they were making up for something that left me feeling a bit sour. Like the tense cousin of Song for Marion (2013), Finding your Feet knows itself too well, assumes you’ll play along too much, and doesn’t reward you with any astonishing insights or genuine belly-laughs.
Which is a shame.
Favourite scene: three of the poshest people in acting (and Spall) sit around a table in a council flat, inches from the washing machine, rejoicing in life. And that’s before the Trevi Fountain turns up.