Review by Sean Boelman
Danielle Macdonald’s career has (perhaps ironically) come full-circle as she broke out with her starring role in Patti Cake$, an underdog story about an underground musician, and now her newest turn sees her on the opposite end of the musical spectrum. Falling for Figaro is a charming little film, even if its contentment to settle for the tropes can be a bit annoying at times.
The movie follows a successful business woman who decides to drop everything in her life and move to Scotland to compete in a singing competition to become a professional opera singer. It does feel as if this is the type of film that would have been a hit a decade ago, as this type of singing competition was all the rage back then and has since subsided in its popularity.
Still, for a movie about a type of performance that is generally considered to be for a niche, upscale audience, the film is surprisingly accessible. The brief hour and forty-five minute runtime flies by, in large part due to the fact that the movie hits only the major beats. The film covers an extensive training process and only shows the viewer minimal details, although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
As one would expect, the message here is the same old “follow your dreams” inspiration that has been done hundreds of times before. This wouldn’t be a problem if everything wasn’t developed to the bare minimum. It’s still a heartwarming and crowd-pleasing movie, but it pulls all of its punches.
Additionally, the character development in the film is frustrating. Although the protagonist has a compelling and fully fleshed-out arc, a lot of the other characters are disappointingly shallow. Everything is set up for her mentor to have some strong growth, but this storyline goes nowhere (perhaps to keep the runtime short). And the “nemesis” turns into a predictable love triangle storyline.
That said, the strength of the movie is in its performances. Macdonald is great in her role, showing that she is able to be really powerful on screen even when the material she is working with is pretty standard. Her chemistry with Joanna Lumley is brilliant, and the moments in which they are together are absolutely the highlights of the film.
From a technical standpoint, the movie is rather by-the-book. It would have been nice to see more done in terms of artistry. Even the final competition towards which the entire film is building is rather plain. It’s a bunch of people standing on stage singing (the most well-known opera songs, for that matter), with the camera pointing at them statically. The execution is sorely lacking in energy, but the actors are thankfully able to save it.
Falling for Figaro is a very pleasant movie all-around. While it doesn’t break any new cinematic ground, and there are plenty of more memorable films to have done the same thing, strong performances make this worth a go nevertheless.
Falling for Figaro hits theaters and VOD on October 1.