My uber-foodie companion and I were in the vanguard of those going back to the State Cinema on Saturday night. The only new movie on was a preview of ‘Love Sarah’, which promised to be an uplifting chick flick about three generations of women battling against the odds to set up a bakery in trendy Notting Hill in London. It looked right up our alley, but it turned out to be a bit of a pudding, alas.
Recipe: Take a Mills & Boonian plot, add a touch of mouthy millennial wokeness, a spray of feminist misanthropy, a dash of food porn, a good dollop of multiculti warmth and fuzziness (this bit was alright) and pop it into a Notting Hill setting hoping some of the cinematic magic of that earlier hit movie will rub off. It didn’t.
It was so nice to get back into the cinema ambience that we didn’t really mind the waste of money. We were in the big old Cinema 1, where they told us only 29 people would be allowed altogether. I’d booked and collected tickets earlier, so there was no danger of missing out or not getting a seat. They said those 29 people should spread out, which was easily done, but the funny thing is we were allowed to sit together. There was a group of four adults in the row behind and down a few seats who didn’t look like a shared household group to me – more like two middle-aged couples, all sitting next to one another with no spaces in between, in the middle of this vast space with hardly anyone in it! Makes you wonder what’s the point of enforcing the strict distancing. Not that it worried us…nobody in front to block the view, nobody behind us to kick the seats, no annoying loud talkers. The one teensy drawback of this unusual quiet was that I could still hear the rustling of nearby lolly papers.
Reluctant as I am to put people off going back to the State, I ended up doing a full review of this stinker. Here it is.
Sarah is happily cycling through London on her way to meet her best mate Isabella at the site of a rundown space they hope to turn into a bakery café in London’s trendy Notting Hill. Tragedy strikes in the traffic and Isabella is left without her bestie and business partner. She doesn’t have the heart or, she believes, the talent to make a go of the bakery on her own because the late Sarah was the one with the baking cred.
She goes to the leasing agent, asking to be let off the hook. When he explains, reasonably and courteously, what her legal position is, she berates him very nastily indeed. You’d think she’d be grateful when he turns up an offer from someone who’ll take the lease off her hands and turn the premises into a wine bar but no, this is somehow a Bad Thing and Isabella remains resentful.
Enter Sarah’s daughter Clarissa. She’s been recently dumped by a boyfriend (understandably, in my view, as she’s rude and sullen with him for no good reason) and goes to stay with her grandmother Mimi (otherwise excellent English character actor Celia Imrie), keen to atone for years of neglect of her now dead daughter. Clarissa is sullen and rude with her too, but when she finds out about the wine bar proposal she suddenly drops the attitude and perkily urges Isabella to have a crack at the café after all, because ‘it’s what Sarah would have wanted’. Isabella protests that they have no money, leaving us to wonder what they were going to use to start up the venture in the first place when everything was hunky-dory. What happened to that money?
This episode typifies the slipshod scripting and plotting evident throughout this movie. But that’s not its only problem. We are asked to sympathise with these women but they are often portrayed unsympathetically. Especially the younger ones, who are often bad-mannered and unlikeable. Is this a generational #Metoo thing? Or is it just me?
In any event, Clarissa persuades her grandmother to put up the money and they go looking for a pastrychef. Enter hunky Rupert Penry-Jones (remember him from Spooks?), an old flame of Sarah’s who just happens to be a sought-after chef and who offers his services to this unpromising enterprise because he’s always had a thing for Isabella and also he’s curious about whether he’s Clarissa’s father. Of course we just know he’s going to overcome Isabella’s unexplained hostility and win her round, just as we know Mimi will end up with the eccentric but presentable old coot who lives across the road and who’s in the story for no other reason than to give each of the female leads an age-appropriate love interest. At least Mimi is reasonably nice to hers.
When they finally emerge from the bakery kitchen, the various cakes and sweet confections are portrayed with requisite lusciousness, but a generous serving of cake porn doesn’t make up for the lack of authenticity in the cooking scenes, which is the least the foodie moviegoer could expect!
The syrupy ballad over the closing credits implies that we’ve just witnessed a powerful emotional drama. We haven’t. While I’m kind of glad we were spared the sight of Sarah being knocked off her bike and killed, her early and perfunctory dispatch leaves us with no sense of who she was and why she’s the inspiration for the strivings of these women. Some scenes of grieving on their part might have helped, as might the occasional flashback, to explain why she was loved.