We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 6 Sep 6:25PM
A middle-aged hairdresser (Trine Dyrholm) contends with cancer, an unfaithful husband and her daughter’s wedding in this romantic comedy from Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier.
This surprisingly light-hearted offering from the writer-director team behind the Oscar-winning (and not remotely light-hearted) In A Better World bears more than a few similarities to Mamma Mia! A single Mum attends her daughter’s wedding in an exotic Mediterranean location and falls for Pierce Brosnan’s crinkly-eyed charms. As romantic comedies go, it’s about as formulaic as they come, though loftier ideas do attempt to surface from time to time.
The original Danish title, which translates as ‘The Bald Hairdresser’, perhaps gives a better idea of what the film was trying to achieve than the insipid ‘Love Is All You Need’. Questions of social class lurk in the subtext, as a humble Danish hairdresser (played with a winning blend of frailty and feistiness by Trine Dyrholm) is pitted against millionaire vegetable exporting tycoon Pierce Brosnan. She has rarely left her hometown while he is a multi-property-owning man-of-the-world, causing peripheral characters to raise eyebrows at the compatibility of their match. The threat of cancer also hangs over the film – Dyrholm’s Marianne has been left bald following a course of chemotherapy and is still waiting for the all-clear. The moment when Marianne is getting ready for her daughter’s pre-wedding party and becomes convinced she has found a lump on her neck is one of the most poignant in the film.
However, the rest of the script – and, at times, the direction too – is painfully predictable. Chance encounters that are supposed to be either comedic or romantic just come across as contrived, and many of the characters are the laziest sort of stereotype, particularly Marianne’s slob of a husband, his dolly bird girlfriend and Brosnan’s brazen sister-in-law. The cast do their best to make the cliché-ridden dialogue sound plausible, and deserve extra credit for flitting between Danish, English and sometimes Italian, but despite their efforts the majority of scenes ring hollow. At 116 minutes, the film also feels a bit overlong for a rom-com, especially from the mid-point onwards when every other shot seems to have been lifted from an upmarket travel agent’s guide to Sorrento.
While it’s always commendable when filmmakers attempt to broach new territory, this disappointingly slight rom-com does not live up to director Susanne Bier and writer Anders Thomas Jensen’s more serious work.
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