As millions have made the life choice to ditch their jobs and pursue their dreams, motivated by the pandemic of course, it was inevitable that Hollywood underdog stories would evolve to reflect that. Such is the case with Falling for Figaro, a charming if underwhelming rom-com led by the always-terrific Danielle Macdonald, who completes what I like to look at as a loose knit musical underdog trilogy along with Patti Cake$ and Dumplin. Here, she plays Millie Cantwell, a fund manager who uproots her life to do what she’s always wanted to: become an opera singer.
Millie’s dull life also includes Charlie (Shazad Latif), who isn’t just her live-in boyfriend but effectively her boss at work. When offered a major promotion, Millie shocks him and everybody by turning it down and quitting on the spot, like a perkier Jerry Maguire. Charlie’s wishy-washy as far as supportive lovers go, which only makes her decision to move to Scotland and train under retired, abrasive former opera star Meghan Geoffrey-Bishop (Joanna Lumley) a lot easier. The town is an eyeblink, with one hotel and bar that happen to be in the same place. It’s there that Millie meets her competition, stuffed-shirt wuss Max Thistlewaite (Hugh Skinner), a baritone who also happens to be Meghan’s longtime pupil. He’s also the hotel’s cook, which makes pissing him off a dangerous proposition, one would think.
Falling for Figaro is directed and co-written by Ben Lewin, best known for The Sessions and The Catcher was a Spy. He’s always done a decent job of blending humor with more taxing emotional themes, and there’s nothing easy about turning your life around in the way Millie does. Lewin leans further into the lighthearted tone this time, which suits Macdonald perfectly. While the comedy is uneven at best, Macdonald is great and truly the best reason to see this film. Macdonald has proven time and again to be one of the most enchanting actors around, and her Millie is someone you want to reap the rewards of her courageous risk. Not only that, but Macdonald is so believable in the operatic scenes that it makes you wonder if she’s been hiding a secret talent.
On the other hand, Falling for Figaro really lives and dies on Macdonald’s chemistry with Skinner, and there just isn’t any. Not to pile on Skinner here, but his Max is too much of a whiny crybaby, especially when we first meet him, and he just doesn’t have enough personality to match his booming voice. As for Lumley, she’s wonderfully scathing in a role that seems written exactly for her. When Macdonald and Lumley share the screen, they’re enough to make you wish this movie harmonized better than it does.
Falling for Figaro opens in theaters and VOD on October 1st.