Matthew Thompson / UK / 2008
Thereís always something suspicious about a story where posh characters (or at least ones perceived as being so) are taken down a notch or two financially, to a level still above the majority of the proles where they then bemoan their fate. But as Dummy is about two brothers coping after the death of their mother, even if the audience does bring some fiscal envy along for the show, the bereavement shouldnít be belittled too much.
Plus any film that is sufficiently well heeled in comparison to its audience always has to work harder to gain their sympathies. Itís not impossible after all and itís often desirable especially given that richer characters can have more opportunities than poorer ones. A parallel might be drawn with Wes Andersonís The Royal Tenenbaums which has more than its fair share of maladjusted rich kids in misery. That isnít the only link. The production design in Dummy is as plush as the accents. The main house the characters inhabit is richly furnished and their mother sports a triumph.
Starting out with some promise, especially with some crisp visuals and an infatuation with out-of-focus shots, we have the scenario of a brother in his late teens who wants to work on his burgeoning DJ career, lumbered with the responsibility of caring for his younger brother (whoís probably 10 or 11ish). Itís set in Brighton or thereabouts (another minus along with money) allowing the old brother Danny to be as unashamedly street as he likes whilst manhandling his plummy vowels along with his record case. Younger brother Jack by narrative inducing contrast is as camp and straight-laced as a good middle class upbringing and a lack of puberty will allow. Cue engineered conflict and heartbreak as social services get involved.
Despite all this promise though it all starts to run a little dry as the scenario runs aground on the poor script. One beckoning chasm comes from an online stalker who Jack confides to whilst Dannyís away, leading an audience to suspect the old paedo-tabloid clichťs but thankfully the writing isnít that hackneyed.
Returning to accents, Dummy isnít alone in bringing middle class accents back to the realm of acceptable as Brideshead Revisited is remade and old Etonian David Cameron finally starts to steer the Tory party back towards viable opposition in the UK. But it does fumble in making them seem incongruous. Compare with Unrelated about a middle class family on holiday in Tuscany. How much more of an antithesis to kitchen sink dramas can you get! Yet that film gets away with them.
The film is named for Jackís mechanism for coping without his mother. He coats the mannequin in makeup and dresses it up in mumís wardrobe and is frequently shown hugging it and referring to it as a live person. Itís creepy but strangely more acceptable than a rich kid wanting to be a DJ.