Karen Gillan’s a hot property right now. Fresh off the back of her success as Doctor Who’s sidekick Amy Pond, she’s been nabbed for Marvel’s upcoming Guardians Of The Galaxy movie, and now she lands in cinemas as the lead in her own romcom. She’s very good. The film isn’t.
To nick a line from another movie, we open where other romantic comedies end: in the first 10 minutes, Gillan’s hip young author, Jane Lockhart, has got her first book published, fallen in and out of love with her dishy French publisher (Stanley Weber), and been reunited with her estranged dad (Gary Lewis). But she’s got a two-book deal, a publisher she can’t stand and – now she’s happy – no motivation.
Weber’s the first problem. Maybe it’s the language barrier, but he delivers every line with the subtlety of a postal van crashing through your living room wall. His character spends the duration of the film trying to make Jane unhappy so she can write again. He’s a roguish, Daniel Cleaver-esque character who requires a greater degree of subtlety and wit than Weber is able to muster.
Devoid of charisma, Weber’s character is impossible to like: in fact, he comes across as a demented, sadistic stalker. You don’t want him to end up anywhere near the girl – in fact, you’d rather there were several locked doors, a padded cell and a court order between them. Jane’s current boyfriend, meanwhile, is an egocentric screenwriter (Henry Ian Cusick): a sad reminder, presumably, that women with absentee fathers are often attracted to dysfunctional men in later life.
The preoccupation with these unengaging romances means the B-plot – in which the protagonist of Jane’s unfinished novel (Amy Manson) berates her for her inability to come up with an ending – lacks the attention it deserves. It’s tempting to give it the benefit of the doubt and liken it to Dennis Potter or Martin Amis, but the rules are ill defined.
Other characters ask Jane who she’s talking to, so we can take it her conversations with her own creation aren’t a metafictional intrusion, nor a metaphor: as far as Jane is concerned she is actually seeing and speaking to a character from a book whom others cannot see. Two and a half decades of abusive relationships have clearly taken a sorry toll on her.
Gillan herself comes impressively close to saving the whole thing. She brings a quickfire, self-conscious delivery to a script with which even experienced actors such as Lewis struggle. She can make a line as simple as “Can I be on your quiz team?” significant, emotional and hilarious. Sadly, the film’s problems are too much, even for her.
Not Another Happy Ending is a romcom with no rom and only Gillan providing the com. It can’t separate the levity of its intent from the (unintentional?) darkness of its subject: the two spill into each other and create a vaguely disturbing mess. Really not a happy ending.
Not Another Happy Ending is in UK cinemas from 11 October