Born Romantic (2000)

A revival of the type of multi-story romantic comedy that had a brief vogue in the 30s and 40s (Tales of Manhattan, Carnet de Bal), this revolves around Corazon, a London salsa club, and the nearby Kismet minicab and cafe firm, and winds together the stories of three oddball couples whose inevitable comings-together are complicated by any number of classical or modern comic predicaments.

Fergus (David Morrissey), a Liverpudlian musician just thrown out of his group, arrives in the city to look up Mo (Jane Horrocks), the college girlfriend he dumped eight years ago but whom he has just realised is the love of his life; Eddie (Jimi Mistry), a foul-up choloroform-mugger with a wandering Dad (Kenneth Cranham), blunders into the club on the run from the police and fixates on neckbrace-wearing self-styled weirdo Jocelyn (Catherine McCormack), who beautifies graves with Mexican day of the dead tat for absent loved ones; and Frankie (Craig Ferguson), a club-owner who lives in armed truce with his ex-wife in an unsaleable house that is slowly sinking, makes a play for reserved but forceful art restorer Eleanor (Olivia Williams), who isn't impressed by his reverence for the Rat Pack or asymmetrical face. All the characters take rides in a cab driven by Jimmy (Adrian Lester), a widowed voice of wisdom who eavesdrops at the Kismet on an opinionated boor (Ian Hart) who is trying to put his timider best mate off women.

It might have been stronger if one of the stories didn't pan out with a clinch, but it at least takes a while to get to the inevitable as the variously fouled-up characters unbend to fit together, with the men even taking dance lessons in order to prove their worthiness of the women. Writer-director David Kane does present the timeless stories in a very contemporary setting, with Year 2000 casual sex and cruelty (Ferguson's horrible house and ex-marriage) and is a rare British filmmaker to be concerned with a credible in-between class milieu rather than the more obvious (and cinematically cred) upper/posh or working/criminal class backdrops - this is a film that pays attention to the decor of flats and workplaces (an ashtray sliding off a sloping table is one of the funniest sight gags) and to the actual meaning of a musical and racial multiculturalism (though it removes its black and latina fourth couple to a strange idealism to show up how head-fucked the white folks are) that truly epitomises modern London.

First published in this form here.

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