VOD film review: Lessons in Love
James R | On 26, Sep 2015
Director: Tom Vaughan
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Jessica Alba
Watch Lessons in Love online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Pierce Brosnan is one of those actors who remains underrated, despite having been Bond, James Bond, God’s gift to women. Is it his looks? His choice of roles? His easily likeable charisma? Either way, it’s always a treat to see him pop up in a film. With Lessons in Love, that feeling soon wears off.
Here, he plays Richard, a man who is God’s gift to women. The problem is that, unlike 007, he’s an English lecturer at Cambridge. And, like fellow former 007 Roger Moore, Brosnan’s getting on a bit. So when we see him wake up with Jessica Alba’s student, Olivia, sprawled across his bed, what’s meant to be cool, laddish and oh-so-sexy simply comes across as creepy: he’s not a suave secret agent; he’s that pervy, old professor you used to see on Tuesday afternoons.
There’s a brief acknowledgement of the characters’ age gap when she decides to move to Los Angeles and he follows suit, looking out of place in a sky blue suit you expect to see on someone 20 years younger. But rather than rethink his life, our lead is instead rewarded for one failed relationship by the chance of another – with Olivia’s stunning sister, Kate (Hayek). One scene where we see Salma Hayek and Jennifer Alba virtually hanging off his arms as he grins and sips wine simply feels uncomfortable.
Director Tom Vaughan is no stranger to romance and drama. Between the lovely Starter for Ten and helming the BBC’s Doctor Foster, he’s an accomplished and sensitive storyteller. He manages to capture the spark of chemistry you’d expect to find between Hayek and Brosnan and even sells some of their serious exchanges.
But Matthew Newman’s screenplay – his first feature script – never convinces, throwing in cliches to pad out his characters. Of course, Richard has a drinking problem (something that’s used as shorthand for his Byronic life of excess); of course, he wants custody of his son; of course, he tells us all this through a heartfelt monologue at an AA meeting; and of course, his dad (Malcolm McDowell) is also a creep.
With few laughs to cover the cracks elsewhere, Lessons in Love finds itself several classes short of a full course. Bonding scenes, such as our men weeing off a pier in public, that are meant to be endearing only feel false – and, as a result, there’s no reason to engage with a pig who’s so chauvinistic not even a Prime Minister would associate with it. The film’s former title (it’s been renamed multiple times) was How to Make Love Like an Englishman, which only emphasises the sympathetic slant taken to Richard’s outdated ways. All the while, the teacher of The Romantics struggles with the question of how to make what he does seem relevant to a modern audience. He’s not the only one.
Lessons in Love is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.