October 1st, 2021
MOVIE: FALLING FOR FIGARO
STARRING: DANIELLE MACDONALD, JOANNA LUMLEY, SHAZAD LATIF, HUGH SKINNER
DIRECTED BY: BEN LEWIN
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Oddly enough, I have a connection to opera music these days, or at least more than I ever had 10-years ago. Before I was married, I remember my aunt and uncle would go to shows at the Lyric Opera in Chicago, but it became a bigger part for me when I met my wife. Her late father was a legendary singer at the New York Metropolitan Opera house, and a style of music I never liked was now something I had a little bit more knowledge about. And as my open approach to cinema and documentaries always grows, it leads me down paths to see movies such as Maria By Callas, Ingmar Bergman’s production of The Magic Flute, or what anyone could glean from Amadeus. Which leads me to the romantic little movie Falling For Figaro, which has a predictable premise, and a cutesy approach, yet it still won me over with its harmonious song. Danielle Macdonald stars as a young woman in London, giving up her financial adviser job, with hopes of becoming a big opera singer. It leads to her ups and downs in the practice process, some light laughter, and a romantic turn we all see coming, and still Falling For Figaro is a melodious delight.
The director is Ben Lewin, who has a filmography of movies about unconventional romantic connections or people pursuing their outsider dreams. Specifically speaking, the man in the iron lung that’s looking for a love connection in the rom-com The Sessions or Please Stand By, which involved a woman pursuing her dream as a writer for Star Trek. Those two themes merge in Falling for Figaro, where Danielle Macdonald plays Millie, a successful partner in a financial firm, living and working with boyfriend Charlie (Shazad Latif), and about to get a big promotion, when out of the blue she decides to just quit. She knows she can do anything she wants with her brain and decides to take a chance at becoming an opera singer. It’s easier said than done, but she’s committed and moves to a small Scotland town, paying for classical training from renowned vocal coach Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley), with hopes of winning a world competition that earns a spot in the London Opera. What Millie didn’t anticipate was a connection with fellow student Max (Hugh Skinner), who works at the local restaurant, but also teaches Millie what it takes to be the next great singer. The goal was to become an opera singer, but Millie places herself into a love triangle she never thought could happen.
Even in my description it’s no doubt that even the slightest clever person could predict how Falling for Figaro would go. It’s not a movie about achieving success, or getting the love interest, but it is about being willing to take the risk, and those themes come across here. If there are quibbles to make, and there are some, which could be aimed at Macdonald, who is a very good actor, yet still falls into roles that feel only built for her, where she takes characters that go from rags to riches in some capacity. Her breakthrough in Patti Cake$ was a Sundance hit, where she became an unheard of hip-hop artist, and now she’s becoming an opera singer. The difference here, however, is now she’s making movies with a romantic conflict and that helps a bit.
A majority of the humor here comes from Joanna Lumley, who plays her teacher role as the fierce voice, unafraid to tell Max and Millie if they suck or not. Director Lewin does a good job of limiting how much of that biting humor we get and also allowing the romance between the two leads to be both awkward and cute in its own right. There’s little conflict among the characters, but the charm drips off the screenplay, with a collection of townsfolk that drink their beers while eavesdropping on the practices, and a soundtrack of opera music that will make anyone become a fan if they listen long enough.
It’s damn near impossible to dislike Falling for Figaro, where the entire cast makes it fun to watch, and the cozy locations will inspire audiences to go on their own operatic journey. The shortcomings arrive in the predictability and the lack of courage to do things differently, but if you are looking for a movie that needs to be good, because you’re bringing your mother out, Falling for Figaro fits that bill. Two charming lead actors falling in love, singing sweet music, and sparking an appreciation for opera. If that was the goal of Falling for Figaro then it has hit the high note.
FALLING FOR FIGARO IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS FRIDAY OCTOBER 1ST, 2021
Written by: Leo Brady