The Decoy Bride, written by Sally Phillips of Smack the Pony and I’m Alan Partridge fame is a low-budget UK romantic comedy. It stars former Dr. Who David Tennant and Boardwalk Empire star Kelly MacDonald. Made for a tiny £2.5m it has failed to make its money back at the box office based on a very limited release (only 1 screen in the US) and was released on DVD and blu-ray 3 days after its debut.
Writer James Arbur (Tennant) is desperately trying to marry the biggest movie star on the planet, Lara Tyler (Alice Eve). Unfortunately their big day keeps getting ruined by the paparazzi. In one last attempt, the couple go to the small Scottish island of Hegg (population 75) hoping that they will be far enough away from the press to tie the knot in peace. After being discovered there, Lara goes missing causing her press officers to hire local girl Katie (Kelly MacDonald) to play her in a ceremony so as not to panic James. A series of mistakes lead to Katie and James actually getting married however, and The Decoy Bride becomes a desperate race for them to get to the church and invoke an archaic law that will annul their marriage.
As you can tell the setup is silly, but this is not always a problem with romantic comedies because the success of a film often lies with the cast. If they’re suitably entertaining, with good chemistry then you can forgive almost any plot contrivance. Just look at Some Like It Hot for proof of that. Luckily for The Decoy Bride the cast is supremely talented. In Tennant there is an innately likeable presence, and while he sometimes struggles in his first leading man film, there’s enough on display to show what he can do, even with a lacklustre script. The supporting cast, including Dylan Moran and Sally Phillips herself are solid, if slightly wasted by a film that focuses almost entirely in its two central relationships. The real star of The Decoy Bride though is Kelly MacDonald.
She imbues Katie with so much warmth, compassion and wit that it is a joy to see her on the screen. It just shows what a talent she is that she’s able to drag a film as staggeringly preposterous as The Decoy Bride and make it watchable. It’s a shame then that the film focuses as much time on Alice Eve’s Lara as it does, because she really struggles to bring anything but bad dialogue to the audience and drags the film back into the depths of bad where it likely belongs.
Inspired by the Richard Curtis school of romantic comedies, The Decoy Bride is a predictable, tired and clichéd narrative that is lifted from complete disappointment by the two charismatic leads. If ever there was any doubt in their acting ability, just see how much they’re able to do with so little here.