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PATRICK (2018) review

February 15, 2019

patrickposter

 

written by: Vanessa Davies, Mandie Fletcher and Paul de Vos
produced by: Vanessa Davies, Paul de Vos, Sue Latimer & James Spring
directed by: Mandie Fletcher
rated: not rated
runtime: 94 min.
U.S. release date: February 9, 2019 and February 15, 2019 (limited)

 

Within the first ten minutes of “Patrick”, we learn through a breathless string of complaints that the main character of the film, thirtysomething Sarah Francis (Beattie Edmondson), does not like dogs – later on, she even shares that she “hates” dogs. Beyond the fact that such pronouncements are inconceivable, that initial admittance becomes the most obvious foreboding line in a film in which we already know that it revolves around a relationship between her character and the adorable titular pug the movie is named after. So, if you guess that she’ll eventually come to love this dog, well that just means this isn’t the first time you’ve seen a movie. 

Set in modern-day England (filmed in areas in and around London, Surrey, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) and co-written by director Mandie Fletcher, Paul de Vos and Vanessa Davies, “Patrick” is counting on the fanbase of quirky British rom-coms like the “Bridget Jones” movies, Roger Michell’s “Notting Hill” and Richard Curtis’ “Love Actually”, to embrace it, or at least enjoy the viewing experience. While there are actual connections to those movies – with a couple of actors in this film having starred in some of them (more of a wink and nudge to have the website for the movie named pugactually.com than an actual coincidence) – they have the benefit of not resembling rom-coms that have come before them, unlike this movie.

“Patrick” can easily be enjoyed if you’re content to simply be tickled by the cuteness of the titular pooch or if your fine with just following along with the engaging and charming Edmondson. But, if you want something more than a formulaic, predictable comedy, something that feels like the situations we’re watching could actually happen in real life to characters who feel like real people, well that’s not really going on here. The movie ultimately becomes a movie I wanted to like more than I was actually able to.

 

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Still, following Edmondson’s Sarah and her pug is enjoyable enough, despite the ridiculous contrivances and scenarios they get themselves into, and seeing how she is eventually (and inevitably) won over by Patrick is fun, albeit in an eye-rolling manner.

The movie opens with a peppy opening montage that goes back-and-forth between Sarah in the flat she just moved into with her boyfriend and an elderly lady who we’ll come to learn is Sarah’s grandmother (Ann Queensberry). We learn that Sarah’s boyfriend has cheated on her and is leaving just as she does and we get the idea that our protagonist is somewhat of a daffy mess. We also learn that the spoiled pug that lives with the grandmother kind of runs the house and when the she drops dead in the park while taking Patrick for a walk, it becomes obvious what’s going to happen with her dog.

Sure enough, while the lawyer is going over everything the matriarch has left for the family, we learn that she has bequeathed Patrick to Sarah. This isn’t good news for Sarah and it’s here where we discover her aforementioned distaste for canines. Sarah barely wakes up on time for her job as a schoolteacher and can hardly take care of herself as she reels from her breakup, so it’s clear that how she will manage taking care of a dog will be both curious and amusing. Patrick isn’t thrilled either with such an upheaval and gives Sarah a hard time, making a mess of her place and demanding an alteration of her typical schedule with the need for feedings, walks and other needs. The precocious pug is also something of a troublemaker as well, having been used to calling the shots, and his boisterous behavior almost gets Sarah’s elderly neighbor Celia (Gemma Jones) in trouble with their landlord, who disapproves of pets. Sarah will have to figure out a system that works for herself and Patrick, one that will allow her to function at work without wondering whether her new companion will cause havoc at her home.

 

patrickpals

 

This is the point in the movie where it becomes quite obvious where the story will go. Sarah’s life will no doubt take a turn for the better because of this adorable dog. Being forced to go outside for walks finds Sarah getting exercise she’s neglected as well as unexpected social encounters with those who live nearby, especially other dog owners. We already know that owning a dog can prove to be a life enriching experience, but “Patrick” wants to really wants to drive that home at every turn.

Since there’s very little subtlety or character nuance here and the movie has such a light and breezy tone there doesn’t ever seem to be a point where we would be concerned for Sarah. No matter what upturns her life, she manages to land on her own two feet just fine. When she finds herself in need of another place to live, her co-worker Becky (Emily Atack) offers a river houseboat that belongs to her out of town brother. It needs some fixing up and don’t you just know that Sarah will do just that in no time and soon enough it’ll wind up looking oh so cute, like the kind of domicile flip you’d see on a reality show.

Apart from a period where Patrick goes missing, the only real dilemma is which of the two meet-cute-in-the-park male suitor Sarah should decide on, scruffy-looking Ben (Tom Bennett “Love and Friendship”) or the hunky veterinarian Oliver (Ed Skrein “Deadpool”) and as it turns out, this is the one plot line that doesn’t turn out entirely as expected. The way in which one of these men is connected to a specific student of Sarah’s seems entirely too coincidental, providing yet another added cliche.

 

patricksuitor

 

Overall, whatever happens in “Patrick” just doesn’t seem to be all that urgent or compelling to really elevate us beyond easy enjoyment. Much of that enjoyment comes from Edmondson’s performance, especially her knack for physical comedy and quirky (and often hilarious) facial reactions. At times, it feels like there’s too much wedged into the screenplay, like when the out-of-shape Sarah gets involved in a charity run, which seems to serve as a setting for a third act that ends in one of the most stereotypical rom-com outcomes.

Those familiar with director Mandie Fletcher’s previous work, primarily “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie”, will recognize Edmondson’s mother, comedy actor Jennifer Saunders in a supporting role here. Her father, Adrian Edmondson, another actor known for his comedy work, is also a supporting character and veteran actor Bernard Cribbons turns up in a cameo role. All of the cast is uniformly good, but there’s no real standouts here and the characterization rarely ever strays from what you’d expect.

I found myself wishing there was some genuine romance and legitimate comedy in this predictable rom-com that just can’t escape its cliches, despite the talent present here. “Patrick” is a fun enough watch, yet it never really surprises or goes out of its way to offer anything new to the genre, even though it’s named after a dog. I found myself wishing the movie had more quirk to it, or more of a fun absurd tone to it. Come to think of it, I would’ve liked this movie more if it was actually named “Pug, Actually”.

 

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RATING: **

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