Released amidst the final furlongs of the Leveson inquiry’s investigation into phone hacking and other nefarious tabloid exploits, this cat and mouse tale of a celebrity couple forced to flee to a remote Scottish island in order to escape an unscrupulous, omnipresent media could have resulted in a wry satire of contemporary press intrusion.
In low budget, but nonetheless mainstream, British tradition, rather than aspire to something even fleetingly above average, it settles for the variety of bog standard romantic comedy that inevitably ends up gathering dust in the video section of your local charity shop.
In the first of two failed plots to outwit the paparazzi, the American actress Lara Tyler (Alice Eve) assumes she has managed to side-foot a mob of photographers on her wedding day by hiring a team of decoy brides to throw them off the scent until one particularly dogged snapper is discovered secreted in the wood panelling of the church resulting in the marriage being called off.
At this point, rather than signing a deal with a single publication for exclusive rights to the ceremony, our implausibly naïve protagonists flee to the fictional Hebridean island of Hegg, inspired by its exotic description in the groom’s (David Tennant) Booker Prize winning book.
Cut to Katie (Kelly MacDonald) throwing her engagement ring into the sea as part of her initiation rite as a newly proclaimed ‘man vegan’.A popular character on the rom-com circuit, Katie is impossible to discern from any other shoddily drawn female stereotype congenitallyincapable of achieving happiness without some form of male validation.Unwittingly qualifying as the only credible candidate on the island to act as a decoy bride (didn’t this tactic fail the first time?), it doesn’t require too much brain activity to work out who will end up with whom.
In order to add some flesh to its skeletal frame, there’s an array of borderline Neanderthal natives hell bent on fleecing the occasion for all its worth. Indeed, so anachronistic and untouched by modernity are these Heggians they still employ typewriters and wipe their arses with spare copies of Tennant’s book to progressively dwindling comic effect.
Unfortunately, its dull, protracted narrative and Sunday night television aesthetic consigns The Decoy Bride to the big screen dross that it is. Catastrophic casting must also shoulder some of the blame; Kelly MacDonald struggles in earnest, and in vain, to wring any comedy or tragedy from her dialogue (not something Boardwalk Empire viewers will be surprised to hear); Tennant fails to cut it as a romantic lead; and the direction veers between the anonymous and the woeful, the lack of an authorial stamp only adding to its air of mediocrity. In addition to this the screenplay is atrocious, sending flat gags tumbling into one another in domino fashion until it reaches the finishing line for a healthy lashing of cliché and mercifully fades to the credits.
Ultimately, The Decoy Bride’s only significance, if it has any at all, is the fact it can count itself among the final projects to receive funding from the sacred cow that is the UK Film Council, at least in its current incarnation, before it’s demolished at the end of the month (or rather ‘merged’ with the BFI). Hardly a film to cite if one is going to argue in favour of its restoration.