Military Wives has been tailor-made to be a crowd-pleaser. The ingredients are there: the leading characters have an entertaining dynamic that plays on their opposite personalities, they lead a team of underdogs, nostalgic pop tunes are worshipped amongst the film’s kind-hearted humour, a strong patriotic backbone holds up a story that’s been loosely based on real events. As much as it bugs me that the filmmakers believe they’ve cracked the code to pleasing general audiences by offering likeable factors, it’s undeniable that Military Wives does indeed lift your spirits and make us very emotional.
Inspired by the wave of choirs made up of spouses and significant others to those serving in the armed forces, Military Wives is about the formation of one of these groups – a get-together that starts as a social activity at an army base and evolves into a service that helps people through anxiety and grief. The choir is led by regimented team leader Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) and easygoing Lisa (Sharon Horgan). Their work ethics collide as Kate pushes for more of a focus on the fundamentals of proper singing while Lisa wants to maintain the choir’s initial light and fun atmosphere. This is also reflected through various song choices – Kate chooses traditional hymns, Lisa is more in favour of artists like Cyndi Lauper and Tears for Fear.
The choir’s rehearsing earns the singers a prime opportunity to sing for a larger audience. This journey allows director Peter Cattaneo (The Full Monty, The Rocker) to go through the usual motions used to chronicle the personal and emotional journey of determined achievers stepping outside their comfort zone. What really stands out about Military Wives though is its authentic representation of military base life and the turmoil loyal families face when their troops are dispatched and recruited for additional service.
While Military Wives may look like a manufactured feel-good film, it actually sneaks up on you as a strong and original ensemble piece; during its terrific musical sequences that showcase wonderful voices and playful dialogue, and during individual scenes where the actors share a mutual understanding of the sorrow and compassion that exists during these sobering circumstances.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie