In the long quirky career of Jeff Goldblum there sits this 1989 British comedy that feels somewhat out of place, an oddball offering, much like the man himself really.
Directed by the late great chubby British comedian Mel Smith, this movie follows the somewhat dreary and lonely life of one Dexter King, a tall American actor living and working in London. He is single, something of a nerd, a frustrated and desperate thesp, and renting a room from his nymphomaniac landlady friend. When he goes for injections to help with his hayfever allergies he stumbles across Kate Lemon (Emma Thompson) the nurse.
Instantly becoming smitten he keeps going back trying to build the courage to ask her out. Eventually he manages this and the two hit it off. The pair enjoy a wild ride together while Dexter gets fired from his straight man job on a long-running comedy revue show to netting a role on an upcoming West End show. Despite this success complications arise and Dexter loses Kate. It then becomes his new mission to win her back.
This is a rom-com with a difference. It is of course outrageously British but because of the time it was made it is also highly cheeky, highly naughty, brilliantly witty, and actually highly intelligent. Yes the movie is somewhat smutty and rude, but it clearly has much thought behind it. Smith’s direction definitely seems to be homaging Mel Brooks on some level (minus the spoofing) when taking into the account the quite brilliant mocking of your typical West End musicals. The latter half of the film is indeed a really solid take on the Andrew Lloyd Webber scene. You watch it and think they could actually make this musical on the elephant man, the stage sequences are that well done. But it’s not just that, its the clever editing of the comedy, the quick flashbacks that Dexter has gelled with the top writing from Richard Curtis (another British comedy legend).
But it’s all the performances that really help sell this. Rowan Atkinson plays an extreme version of himself (I’m guessing it’s not what he’s really like) as Ron Anderson, a highly popular comic genius who is a complete and utter bastard. This guy basically thinks he’s God’s gift to comedy and cannot stand to be upstaged by anyone. The disdain he holds for pretty much anyone, but especially Dexter, it’s most amusing. As is his apparent arse kissing stories involving the Royal family.
Goldblum is basically Goldblum but his style fits like a glove here. Dexter is just your everyday guy, a tall guy, but an everyday guy. He is relatable, his experiences are relatable, you feel for him, you like him and want to see him succeed. Goldblum is able to engage you with his likable persona. Its actually quite surprising how good Goldblum is with comedy here, both physical and subtle. There are so many great scenes and little moments where a simple facial gesture or double take are hilarious. One highlight has to be the sequence where he ends up getting multiple travel inoculations.
Then you have Thompson as Kate. Again another entirely likable character who is also entirely relatable in every way. Just your average woman doing shift work, renting in a crappy London maisonette, looking for love? I mean really, in this film Thompson is the absolute prime example of ‘the girl next door’ type. Neither her or Dexter are particularly pretty people, they are both oddballs in their own ways, but love is in the eye of the beholder is it not.
There is of course a whole host of other cameos and smaller roles played by top British talents from both the big screen and British TV. Some are straight, others are quite bonkers much like Geraldine Carmen as Dexters sex obsessed landlady Carmen and Mr. Morrow the blind man who likes being blind. But none more so than Suggs of Madness fame in a cameo which is essentially a small music video. If you think along the lines of ‘The Young Ones’ then you’re halfway there. In the middle of this film there is a musical interlude with the lovely song ‘It Must Be Love‘ by Madness where almost everyone breaks the fourth wall (except for Dexter and Kate). It’s most odd really as you’d think this would be better in the closing credits.
As with everything there are some silly bits, inescapable I’m afraid. The entire sex scene (which was quite infamous when I was a kid) is way too silly and overblown. I get the idea of it being a deliberate attempt to be overblown but it doesn’t really work. For starters why on earth does she throw her duvet cover out of the window?! Could of just put it aside. Then there’s all that food they keep rolling in, eww. They do it on a piano and eventually fall out of a cupboard that was closed, eh?
When Dexter goes to get his travel inoculations for his imaginary trip to Morocco (all so he can see Kate and try to ask her out), Kate has to leave for an emergency. But instead of leaving Dexter remains and allows the eccentric trainee doctor to give him the shots, much to his alarm. Why didn’t he just leave? He didn’t actually need the shots. During the film they mention how tall Dexter is a good number of times as if he’s the only person in London to be tall. Like they’ve never come across a tall American before.
And in the end when Dexter must rush to the hospital whilst still in his elephant man makeup, he gets pulled over by the police. Seeing his deformed face (makeup) the police think he’s really needing help so they give him a police escort. When at the hospital Dexter tears off a portion of the makeup, yet the police don’t stop him? Wouldn’t they be somewhat pissed that they’d just been tricked? This eventually leads to the rather daft finale where, of course, Dexter and Kate get back together in front of a crowd of patients. It’s cute but really silly.
By today’s standards this is a somewhat cliched film with its typical rom-com tropes. Indeed Curtis has reused many of these tropes again in his subsequent movies. That’s not a bad thing as said tropes do work well but to anyone seeing this for the first time they will stick out like a sore thumb. The film is obviously incredibly British in its approach and humour which I’m sure many non-British folk would find both charming and confusing (there is an American cut for this film I believe). It’s definitely a forgotten gem of British comedy and easily a forgotten gem in Goldblum’s filmography too.