By: Addison Wylie
How to Make Love Like an Englishman is such a long title. A shorter alternative would be: Weekend Matinée for Mom and Dad.
Like last year’s cloying And So It Goes, Tom Vaughan’s rom-com is a film that uses the likability of its stars as counter programming to attract movie goers – primarily older ones who want to spend the tail end of Summer distancing themselves from bombastic blockbusters. Luckily, How to Make Love Like an Englishman has a bit more personality than And So It Goes, which dangled its actors in front of audiences like a carriage rider lowering a carrot for their steed.
The film reunites After the Sunset’s Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek in a delicate, ordinary story of mismatched love. Brosnan plays Richard, a sophisticated Cambridge professor who falls for one of his students (Kate played by Jessica Alba). One night, while waiting for Kate at a restaurant, Richard meets a woman named Olivia (Hayek) at the bar. Their conversation is prickly and skims on flirtation. When Kate arrives and sees Olivia, it’s revealed that they are both – wait for it – sisters. And, Kate is – wait for it – pregnant, and Rich is the father-to-be.
Olivia becomes a chronic presence in Richard’s life, which contributes to the personal disarray the professor deals with when he switches jobs and has a run-in with the law, all while Kate becomes less dependable. The typical love/hate relationship Brosnan has with Hayek trudges up memories of when the dashing actor ran through similar repertoire with Julianne Moore in Laws of Attraction. His suave allure for the film’s women is akin to Gerard Butler’s in Playing for Keeps, and his scenes in the classroom remind us of Clive Owen in Words and Pictures. Brosnan holds our interest, but practically everything about his character is borrowed.
Salma Hayek smashes and sizzles on screen in a role that some will compare to Diane Keaton’s turn in Something’s Gotta Give – especially when Hayek has to sneak and streak during a very funny scene. Alba is just sort of “there” while the two leads build their chemistry, but she provides the required third-party indifference when the film calls for it; she does so with less cattiness than the audience may expect.
I reference older, somewhat forgotten romantic comedies to highlight (and guiltily predict) the future of Tom Vaughan’s movie. The audience may not utter complaints while being occupied by the film (only sighs towards its predictability), but How to Make Love Like an Englishman is ordinary to a fault, and doesn’t have the longevity to stay fresh with couples after they see it on their first or second dates. I feel the lovebirds will have more to say about their dinner than when discussing their favourite parts about Vaughan’s cheesy escapism.
How to Make Love Like an Englishman is mediocre, but it could’ve been a lot worse.
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