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Sunday, 21 August 2016

Retro Review: Jack & Sarah (1995)

Jack and Sarah
Cast: Richard E. Grant, Samantha Mathis, Dame Judi Dench, Imogen Stubbs, Sir Ian McKellen
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Dramedy 
Worldwide Lifetime Gross: $221.101,758 (USA and UK totals combined) 

Plot: After his wife dies during childbirth, Jack (Richard E. Grant), a solicitor (or attorney in the US) has his world thrown into a whirlwind. Unequipped to handle the pressures of a demanding career & raising an infant daughter on his own, Jack finds help through a local vagrant (Sir Ian McKellen) & submits to hiring a nanny. But the woman he hires is a waitress (Samantha Mathis) who is entirely inexperienced - much to the disapproval of Jack's mother, Margaret (Judi Dench) 

'British 90s Rom- Com Sleeper Hit Amidst The Hype Of 'Four Weddings & A Funeral' & 'Notting Hill''

Though it is labelled as a romantic comedy, in essence, this is really a romantic dramedy of all sorts; after the devastating loss of his wife through childbirth, Jack is in a state of collapse, fuelled by booze and tears and yet he still has to pull himself together for the sake of his daughter by taking care of her, as well as going to work. Just when he has lost all motivation, he stumbles upon an American waitress named Amy, of whom he meets at a restaurant she is working at. She is having a bit of a rough time of late, but Jack goes out of his way to rescue her from her restaurant. He hires her to be his daughter's nanny and from there onwards, Jack and Amy's bond develops from being an employee and boss to friends and to eventual lovers. 

The premise of the film is pretty standard: Sarah's death acts as a springboard and set up for the remainder of the movie with the central focus on widower, Jack and how he tries to move on from the trauma, but also not giving up hope in finding love along the way. But it is the execution of it, as well as the idea of throwing in a child's love that helps bring two people together, which makes it a tad less formulaic to other rom-coms, especially Curtis's Anglophile offerings. 

At first glance, one may think Richard E. Grant is not someone one would have in mind as the doting main male lead in a rom-com film, but rather that other guy whose name also ends with Grant, as in Hugh Grant that most people would probably associate with, in this type of role: yet it is when I watch his performance as Jack that Richard comes across as such a natural performer, and he nails the role with depth, grace and subtlety & by not overacting. He makes us want to sympathise with him, but also through some of his actions, makes us want to shake our head in disbelief. Jack is uptight at times, but also neurotic but he can also be very forgiving as a character and as the film progresses, we see this change in character as he becomes more caring and loving as his bond towards his daughter grows with each and every step of the way, to him coming to terms with his eventual feelings for Amy. 

Richard E. Grant is touching, amusing and brilliant throughout in the role & his scenes where he is bonding with the baby are cute and adorable, along with fine support by the likes of Dame Judi Dench & Sir Ian McKellan. After the terrible Super Mario Bros movie, Samantha Mathis redeemed herself slightly here, and thanks to sitcom writer Tim Sullivan, he didn't make her character out to be a stereotypical, loud and brash American. Did I think she was the ideal choice to play the love interest, Amy opposite Richard E.Grant's, Jack? Arguably, not so. Whereas Samantha Mathis is okay, in contrast to the casting of Richard in this film, the casting director could have and should have opted for somebody else to play his love interest. She is an actress, of whom I cannot picture in carrying a well- written movie as she lacks that star appeal that many other well established Hollywood actresses have in abundance. Mathis was too lightweight in a role that demanded more effort on her part to convince me that as Amy, she and Jack do belong together and being the female love interest for E. Grant, some will say she ought to have had more of a direct effect on him. 

The romantic subplot involving Jack and Amy, though I felt was a good idea, should have been stretched out a little longer. It was as if everything happened so fast, so quickly, given the duration of the film. Yet going back to the point of Samantha Mathis being miscast as Jack's love interest; & with that, the love subplot between herself and Richard didn't really feel convincing enough for me. As much as I do go along with the idea of Jack falling for Loren, but then he falls for Amy. 

& sure enough the film was predictable and the outcome was expected; if only the writers could make the most of it. 

Final verdict:

The writing & plot from Tim Sullivan may be cliched and formulaic in many respects - and yet, but for Samantha Mathis, the performances do a hell of a lot more to elevate this film to a higher status, and one that deserves to stand shoulder- to- shoulder alongside the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill

Jack & Sarah is a nice, pleasant romantic dramedy sleeper hit hailing from Britain that more than does the trick; however, with a much better female lead, this would have been a far better film than it is.  


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