By: Addison Wylie
There’s a world where rainbows cross the sky day in and day out, animals play in harmony, and shiny people joyfully smile without a care to be had. I know it exists because I’ve just seen Common People, a sweet British film that’s available right now on iTunes to rent or purchase.
Stewart Alexander and Kerry Skinner’s film is one of these vehicles where movie goers are dropped off in tiny slices of life only to have those stories cross-over into each other. It’s a formula Garry Marshall has made infamous with his holiday movies. But, Richard Curtis worked wonders with this structure in the adorable Love, Actually.
Alexander belongs more in the Curtis camp with his self-penned screenplay, although the jolly characters have as much depth as the ones Marshall writes. The emotion feels true and the innocent actors belting out the dialogue are committed to the material, but the characters themselves could use more development. If it weren’t for the descriptive exposition in the monologues, some of these actors would have little to hang on to.
Common People is a movie you feel bad for not liking. And, I do feel bad for not ever fully warming up to it. The film so desperately wants everyone in the audience to be as happy as the people on screen. That feeling is briefly contagious, but then we realize how unrealistic the substance has become because of it.
When I say everyone in Common People is happy, I mean EVERYONE is happy. There are moments where you feel like you’re watching children’s programming because of how simple characters are communicating to each other. Maybe that was the intention of Common People. Alexander and Skinner’s goal was to keep a bright attitude and show audiences of the affirmation that can be found during a day in the park. It’s an angle that may work for older audiences looking for light fare, but I needed something a bit more substantial to these stories other than wide-eyed individuals.
Like I stated, the audience receives these monologues that spout off tons of exposition. This is a key example as to why most of Common People doesn’t feel organic. These different people are pitted in situations where they have to explain a little bit about themselves. But, when the conversation turns into a one-man show, that natural venting turns into rudimentary film mechanics to safely communicate information to the audience. Once we realize that the character is no longer speaking to the other person on screen and rather talking at us, that magic is gone.
Common People is a a doughy production that’s hard to get cross at though. It’s utterly harmless, and makes good use of its limited budget. I got a few solid laughs out of it and a couple of discussions had me tuned in. But as soon as it layered on cheesiness and forgot how to be sincere, it lost me altogether.