It’s a familiar formula: A bunch of amateur misfits come together in the belief that they can succeed at whatever their far-fetched goal happens to be. Their road to success is filled with potholes. They squabble with each other, outsiders fill them with self-doubt and a key person in the group drops out. They push on, though, and the big day comes. It looks like they’re going to fail spectacularly but that key person returns at their darkest moment and the group is re-energized. In the end, they may not win the prize but they win the hearts and minds of their audience, including those of their detractors.
That, my friends, is also the plot for MILITARY WIVES. Based on “actual events”, the film tells the story of a group of British army wives who form a singing group to take their minds off the reality that their spouses have gone off to fight in Afghanistan and may never come home. Kate Barclay (Kristin Scott Thomas, TOMB RAIDER; DARKEST HOUR) is the prim and proper wife of the base’s colonel and, by extension, the most senior wife at the fictitious Flitcroft military garrison. Lisa (Sharon Horgan, GAME NIGHT; MAN UP) — if she had a surname, I didn’t catch it — is the day drinking, chill wife of the base’s newly promoted major. As his wife, her role is to organise meaningful activities for the women while their partners are away. Lisa, though, isn’t keen on being in a leadership role and that sets up her chalk-and-cheese relationship with Kate. Yada, yada, yada and the women are asked to perform at the Royal Albert Hall for The Royal British Legion’s Festival of Remembrance.
MILITARY WIVES is basically ROCKY with singing. The story is so self-aware that one of the characters even says as much. But maybe the ROCKY comparison isn’t quite right. An even closer analogy would be to THE FULL MONTY as both films are directed by Peter Cattaneo. Unfortunately, MILITARY WIVES is a cheap imitation of that earlier film. What makes THE FULL MONTY so enjoyable is that the guys never morph into MAGIC MIKE-type strippers. They remain real throughout. In MILITARY WIVES, on the other hand, one character suddenly discovers in her late 20s that she has the voice of an angel, and that with no rehearsing of a brand new song and only ten minutes to put on a fancy dress and do their hair and makeup to perfection, the women are a complete hit, earning a standing ovation from the audience. Even worse, because it’s 2020, we’re given the token Black lesbian character, but she has a tin ear so we can’t say that all Blacks are good singers.
The real story of these inspiring women is a good one so why ruin it with this derivative and woke bit of pap? Skip it and look for the BBC documentary series, THE CHOIR: MILITARY WIVES, if you want to know more. MILITARY WIVES opens on Thursday (November 12th) in cinemas in Hong Kong.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, November 13th, 8:30 am HK time!
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