"FINDING YOUR FEET" — 2 stars — __Imelda Staunton,Timothy Spall, Joanna Lumley, Celia Imrie, David Hayman; PG-13 (suggestive material, brief drug use and brief strong language); in general release__
Over the course of 111 minutes, Richard Loncraine's "Finding Your Feet" winds its way from "OK" to "not bad" to "they're not really going to end it like this, are they?"
Unfortunately, they do, and "Finding Your Feet" is just the latest example of a decent movie that trips its way into a dramatic face plant about 5 yards short of the finish line.
Loncraine's film follows a wealthy woman who is forced to start over financially and emotionally when her swank upper class life ejects her into a lower class trash bin. It's a little like Woody Allen's 2013 effort "Blue Jasmine" (which netted Cate Blanchett an Oscar), but don't think too much about that because "Blue Jasmine" is a much better film.
Imelda Staunton plays Sandra, the well-to-do wife of a chief constable named Mike (John Sessions). The film opens right as she gets her long-coveted title as Lady Sandra, but five minutes later, her 35-year marriage ends as she discovers Mike has been cheating on her with one of her best friends.
Since Mike decides to make a legit go of things with his mistress, Sandra is the odd lady out. So in desperation she turns to Bif (Celia Imrie), the freewheeling activist sister she hasn't spoken to in a decade. Bif is Sandra's polar opposite politically, socially and in most every other meaningful way.
Bif's friend Charlie (Timothy Spall) is also having marriage problems. His wife Lilly (Sian Thomas) is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, lives in a care center and has deteriorated to the point where Charlie wonders if he should continue visiting her. Sandra and Charlie initially bristle when they meet, as she is still early in the process of her social comeuppance, but it's pretty obvious where things are going.
Bif and Charlie both attend a community dance class, and conveniently enough, Sandra used to be a dancer back before she succumbed to the button-down life with Mike. After a little resistance, Sandra starts to let her guard down and begins to live the life she presumably always wanted.
The reconciliation of the estranged sisters is one of "Finding Your Feet's" stronger points, and it is nice to see Bif and Sandra reconnect under the guiding hand of two excellent actresses. At the same time, the characters are also used as a fairly transparent critique of the "no fun" establishment and the "liberated" perspective embodied by Bif, which apparently includes recreational drug use and bisexual experimentation.
The bigger problem, though, is that "Finding Your Feet's" various plot threads paint the story into so tight a corner that a clunky third act has to really stretch to hammer all of its square pegs into their appropriate round holes. By the time we get to the cliched rom-com ending, the effort feels wasted. "Finding Your Feet" features a strong cast and some thoughtful moments, but that's about all you'll salvage from this one.
"Finding Your Feet" is rated PG-13 for suggestive material, brief drug use and brief strong language; running time: 111 minutes.