It’s probably an overstatement to call it a “phobia,” but I’m fearful of small-budget romantic comedies. The cover packaging almost always looks as if it were shot by the same guy who poses high school seniors for cheesy portraits, and too often it’s a reflection of the film itself. The plots are sillier than some of the things in the Sky Mall catalog, and the indie film sensibility often gets trampled by the romantic comedy formula.
That’s happily (and surprisingly) not the case with “The Decoy Bride,” a 2011 film that was shot on a shoestring in Scotland and the Isle of Man—though I wouldn’t have been so surprised had I noticed beforehand that this romantic comedy was directed by Sheree Folkson, who did an amazing job with “My Family and Other Animals,” a 2005 made-for-TV movie.
Folkson manages to have it both ways. “The Decoy Bride” incorporates all the romantic comedy tropes, while also including occasionally smart dialogue, appreciative indie-style cinematography, and the kind of less-than-brisk pacing and attention to detail that characterizes small, independent films.
“The Decoy Bride” isn’t a 50/50 hybrid, though. I’d say it’s more 60/40, with the romantic comedy formula dominating. Which means, of course, that you can see the opposites-attract pairing coming at least 60 minutes before the characters suspect anything.
Kelly Macdonald (“Trainspotting”) plays Katie, an aspiring writer-editor who returns to the tiny Scottish island of Hegg to live with her mum (Maureen Beattie) after her world crumbles. That’s Hegg, as in Population 75, where just about everyone is 75 years old. Everyone under 50 is married but her, she says in voiceover narration. Here is where she grew up, where she couldn’t wait to get out of. But now? Well, there’s nothing like a world falling apart to make you appreciate home—especially when Mum is in a wheelchair and dying (an indie touch).
But Hegg and our heroine are in for a shake-up when a Hollywood actress (Alice Eve as Lara Tyler) decides that the perfect place to elude paparazzi and get married to her favorite writer, James Arber (David Tennant), is Hegg. And of course to keep things totally secret, Lara’s handler (Michael Urie, “Ugly Betty”) tells the people of Hegg that he’s booking the whole island for a marketing retreat. But before anyone can say “Cheese” or hear the click of a shutter, Lara’s nemesis, photographer Marco Ballani (Federico Castelluccio), is on to the scheme.
Will Lara get her dream/serene wedding? She will, if Katie can successfully play a decoy bride. Will an old, newly married beau (Hamish Clark) pursue Katie? Will Katie find happiness?
Yes, yes, yes. Dramatic questions in a romantic comedy are never terribly dramatic because it’s all so obvious. Still, the scenery, the dialogue, and the characters are engaging enough that you don’t mind watching the romantic comedy formula all over again, but with this particular group of people and on this particular little fictional island.
“The Decoy Bride” runs 89 minutes and is rated PG, though I suspect that most children will be bored by the content.
“The Decoy Bride” was shot in 2.35:1 widescreen on 35mm film, but is presented here in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. Like most films shot on the cheap, there’s a little more grain, and like most indie films, there are no extravagant set-ups. Much of it seems to have been shot using available light and real locations. Colors sometimes seem a little undersaturated, while at other times they’re richly hued. Black levels also seem to vary a bit. But overall, the video is sufficient to sustain the illusion. There’s nothing here that will distract viewers from the film itself.
The featured audio is a Dolby Digital DTS-HD MA 5.1, but “The Decoy Bride” is so dialogue-driven that it’s probably overkill. There are occasional ambient sounds sprouting from the rear effects speakers, but until a scene turns dramatic everything is as quiet as the island itself. Subtitles are in English SDH and Spanish.
A few interviews are included, along with a deleted scene and some behind-the-scenes footage. Then there’s a trailer and some FX shots. In other words, there’s not much here in the way of bonus features.
“The Decoy Bride” doesn’t offer anything truly original, but as romantic comedies go it makes for a pleasant enough evening. And if you’re like me, the scenery is a bonus.