Arthur And Mike

Art & Culture

You think I'm being unfair giving a Colin Firth/Emily Blunt film the lowest possible score? Try watching the film. It's one of the biggest car crashes starring talented and likeable actors I've ever seen.

Imagine the scene. I'm sitting in the Scotiabank multiplex at the Toronto film festival, looking forward to a new film starring two of my favourite actors. It's the same place I saw The King's Speech, 2 years ago, before it went mega. And although the casting suggests some royal incest with Victoria and George VI in close combat, I'm looking forward to seeing what's on offer.

The film starts. First shock. Firth has an American accent. Hmm, strange call, for someone so quintessentially English. Oh well, moving on. He seems to be trying to escape an old life, with a faked ID (his new name is Arthur Newman, subtle pun, eh?), by leaving his clothes on the beach so that people will think he's walked into the sea. Off he drives in another car,  and we're waiting to see why he's left his old life behind and what the new one holds in store. So far, he seems a remarkably dull person, prone to wearing naff leisure wear.

In his pre-disappearance life, we discover that he was unsuccessfully married, has a teenage son, and a girlfriend (Anne Heche). He was also – wait for it – a golf pro. Cue sharp intake of breath. Not credible. Not 50 year old Firth. Even when we see a clip of him at the US Open a few years back. In fact that just makes it more implausible. Moving on. Colin/Arthur checks in at a motel, hoping, we assume, to keep a low profile. But when he see an argy bargy going on outside his room, not only does he go and see what's happening, but he subsequently goes to check on the young woman who was in trouble with the cops (Emily Blunt, obviously). She is clearly a handful as well as being 23 years younger than him, but he insists on picking her up and taking her to his hotel room to look after her. She also has an American accent.

The next thing we know, they're on the road together, heading for who knows where. Arthur has the half baked idea of going to Indiana to take up a job as a golf pro, which some rich guy offered him – verbally – some while back. Mike (Blunt's character's name) goes with him, though there seems no obvious reason why except that the script dictates that she should. And all this time, I have the feeling that I'm dreaming of watching the film and that in a minute I'll wake up, and be able to watch the real film which will be funny and charming and completely unlike this. But I don't wake up, and the film drags on and on, going nowhere, apart from the occasional excursion into places they would be better off not going to – the sex scenes are gruesomely inappropriate.

I hope I've begun to convey how bad this film is. If not, I'm obviously not trying hard enough. I simply cannot imagine under what circumstances either of these two wonderful actors signed up for such a shockingly badly written script with a first time director. I know the expression " I could do better than that" comes readily to the lips, but I am willing to bet that in this case, I could write a better script with the same premise. Thought whether Col and Em would sign up is another matter.

I would not have believed it possible, but I can envisage a situation where this film is never released at a cinema in the UK. I suspect it will, simply because someone will figure that the presence of the names above the title will guarantee an audience. All I can say is, don't be fooled. This doesn't even come under the so bad it's bad category. It is just stupendously dull. Don't just cross the road to avoid it. Leave town, and if necessary, the country.