Starring: Sean Pertwee, Georgina Cates, Prunella Scales
Director: Gary Sinyor
Running Time: 95 mins
Stiff Upper Lips is a British film about a young woman in high society who is forced towards marriage with a boring upper class aristocrat, but finds unexpected love with a lower class servant on a foreign trip.
When it comes to mocking the pretentious, pompous period dramas of the late 20th Century, I’m always going to be first in line. Stiff Upper Lips promises just that, but with the exception of a small handful of big laughs, it underdelivers.
As we’ve seen through the years, parody movies are notoriously difficult to get right. Getting away from the title running joke of ‘making fun of a movie/genre’ can be challenging, and keeping up consistently funny writing even harder.
And that’s the exact problem Stiff Upper Lips faces. It gets the tropes of the genre it’s mocking spot on throughout. With lavish production design, pompous performances and dishy drama, it does feel just like a Merchant-Ivory period movie.
But beyond the superficial aspect, the film is a rather poor parody in general. Its story is as predictable as your average period romance, borrowing too heavily from parody targets A Room With A View, Chariots Of Fire and Howard’s End.
Just copying the story of another film isn’t good enough for a parody. The best of the genre (Airplane!, This Is Spinal Tap) come up with a unique story within which there’s mockery of other movies. But Stiff Upper Lips doesn’t seem to have the ingenuity for that.
However, while it’s not a particularly masterful parody, there are a good few laughs here. When the film distances itself a little from the narratives of other movies and comes up with its own ideas poking fun at themes of classism, sexual repression and more, it can actually be rather funny.
The problem is that it doesn’t come along on a particularly consistent basis. And because of that, the intervening periods don’t offer all that much worth watching.
On the whole, Stiff Upper Lips is a bit of a disappointing watch. Its premise is mouth-watering, poking fun at pompous period dramas, but its execution is underwhelming. Funny at moments it may be, but a generally unimaginative and lifeless parody it proves in the end, which is why I’m giving it 6.7.