Falling for Figaro (2020) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): Following her dream

“Falling for Figaro” is a mild and pleasant comedy film which will probably not leave much impression on you when it is over. While it is buoyed a lot by the charming natural presence of its lead actress, it is also pretty predictable and conventional to the core, and I must confess that I simply observed its story and characters from the distance even while getting some entertainment from time to time during my viewing.

Danielle Macdonald, a likable Australian actress who previously drew my attention via her enjoyable lead performance in Netflix comedy film “Dumplin’” (2018), plays Millie Cantwell, a young female American fund manager who suddenly decides to give up her promising professional career just for pursuing her personal dream. After watching a fabulous opera performance during one evening, she becomes quite determined to try on becoming a professional singer, and that certainly perplexes her boyfriend a lot, who is also incidentally her direct supervisor in their workplace.

Surely well aware of how inexperienced she is in many aspects, Millie looks for any good teacher who may be interested in helping her improve her singing skills, and she subsequently approaches to Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley), a former diva who has focused on teaching since she left stages many years ago. Millie is warned about how harsh and cranky Meghan can be, but she is not daunted at all, and we soon see her driving up to a small Scottish village where Meghan has resided since her retirement.

Of course, things do not look that good right from when Millie arrives at the village. There is only one inn which is also the only pub in the village, and the room given to her is not exactly ideal to say the least. Although she has to stay there for next several weeks at least, Millie remains optimistic as before, and she also draws lots of attention from the crusty innkeeper and several other villagers who certainly welcome a little unexpected change in their mostly uneventful village.

However, Millie’s singing teacher is not so impressed or charmed by Millie at all. Right from their first singing lesson session, Meghan sharply points out how horribly amateurish Millie is, and Millie actually comes to consider quitting after her first grueling experience with Meghan, but she soon regains her plucky spirit nevertheless while also trying as hard as possible. Still strict and acerbic as usual, Meghan comes to discern considerable raw potential from her new student, and Millie consequently becomes more professional bit by bit under Meghan’s guidance.

Meanwhile, the movie also focuses on a local lad named Max Thistlewaite (Hugh Skinner), who was incidentally Meghan’s only student before Millie came. As Meghan’s attention is drawn more to Millie, Max cannot help but become jealous a times, but he also finds himself more motivated than before. Both he and Millie are going to participate in the upcoming nationwide singing competition, so Meghan has them practice together for enhancing each other, and, what do you know, we sense certain mutual feelings gradually developed between them.

After taking some time in establishing its main characters during its first half, the screenplay by director Ben Lewin and his co-writer Allen Palmer hops from one expected moment to another during its second half. Yes, our heroine surely becomes quite nervous and vulnerable during a local preliminary contest, but it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that she will eventually overcome, though I must say that there is a little surprise from what she sings during this part. Yes, our heroine becomes a bit conflicted when her boyfriend comes to show some support while she feels attracted to Max, but you can clearly see how this situation will be resolved in the end.

Anyway, the movie does not disappoint us at all in case of its several performance scenes. The arias from many different famous operas ranging from “La Traviata” to “The Barber of Seville” are performed on the screen, and, yes, that famous aria from “The Marriage of Figaro” also appears during one showstopper moment later in the story.

The solid performance from the three main cast members in the film overcome the conventional aspects of the story and characters at times. While Macdonald’s spirited comic performance ably carries the film to the end, she and Hugh Skinner, whose singings are respectively done by Stacey Alleaume and Nathan Lay, have nice low-key chemistry between them, and it is a shame that the movie often pushes their good efforts into distracting plot contrivance instead of going for more development on their characters’ rocky relationship. Around Macdonald and Skinner, Joanna Lumley has some juicy fun with her cantankerous character, and she is especially funny during her several scenes with Gary Lewis, who holds his small place fairly well as a supporting character who was probably quite close to Meghan some time ago.

On the whole, “Falling for Figaro” mostly works as a casual crowd-pleaser for general movie audiences, and I was not surprised when an acquaintance of mine told me later that she actually watched it twice. I can now think of several better comedy films about opera singing such as “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016), but it is not boring at least, and I think you will not waste your time and money if you just look for some lightweight fun.

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