Director: Margarethe von Trotta
Tokyo International Film Festival review
Last time director Margarethe von Trotta collaborated with writer Pamela Katz, the result was Hannah Arendt, an intelligently engaging biopic about the controversial German-Jewish philosopher who sought to discuss the evils of the Holocaust with unflinching honesty and scepticism. So perhaps it’s only reasonable that the two of them would now be in the mood for trying something on the lighter end of the tonal spectrum with their English-language comedy, Forget About Nick.
The problem is that this lightness of tone is matched with a lightness of ideas. With its commentary lacking in originality and its humour lacking in bite, Forget About Nick may prove to be a mildly amusing, if slightly overlong distraction over the course of its 110 minutes but it plays things too safe to leave much of an impression beyond this.
At least it’s a film that’s never hard to watch, thanks in part to the talent and charisma of its two female leads. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal plays Jade, a no-nonsense, stress-eating fashion designer and former model who has just been left by her slimy yet charming older husband Nick (Haluk Bilginer). While Jade is misguidedly half-expecting Nick to come back to their fancy New York apartment any day now, instead she has an unwelcome new housemate forced upon her in the form of Nick’s ex-wife Maria – played by von Trotta regular Katja Riemann – a relatively laid-back teacher and grandmother with whom Nick has unexpectedly entrusted half his former home.
With unresolved feelings of jealousy and betrayal lingering between the two dumped women and both refusing to move out, what ensues is an odd couple comedy with something of a trendy metropolitan twist. This is the sort of stylishly furnished production that bases a running gag around a garish post-modern artwork, and makes a comedic pratfall out of the accidental spilling of chickpeas. Jade’s home life is of a piece with her work life, in which she struggles to adapt to an ever-changing fashion industry that still doesn’t know what to do with the older female demographic (just take the campaign slogan: ‘A Good Woman Lasts Forever’).
While a fair number of jokes land, Forget About Nick’s observations on modern city life are so vague and mild-mannered that it’s sometimes hard to tell whether the film is commenting on the absurd and wearying requisites for staying wealthy and hip, or merely indulging in the same consumerist escapism that saturates so many soap operas and reality TV shows.
In its gentle, often dialogue-based humour, Forget About Nick comes across as a comedy that’s seeking to rework classical sensibilities in a modern context but ends up feeling less charmingly old-fashioned than merely dated. It’s not that its themes of female camaraderie and society’s tendency to sideline women over forty are no longer relevant. It’s that the film has very little to contribute to the conversation other than insights that have by now become rudimentary. Beyond this, Forget About Nick is a perfectly affable and competently executed work of light entertainment but coming from a veteran director who has offered significantly more than this even in recent years, the latest project cannot help but disappoint.
The Tokyo International Film Festival is held from the 25th October to the 3rd November. More info here.