The wedding that ends most comedies begins this one – a lively Indian affair held in the dour heart of England. The accents are diverse and the garb exotic, but the allegedly funny stuff is business as usual. You know the routine: the loudmouth drunk, the gossiping matrons, the pushy videographer demanding retakes, the bride and groom cooing in a corner while impatiently awaiting the punctuating tumble into the marriage bed.
That’s when the stuttering plot reveals its lame gimmick: The consummation devoutly to be wished ain’t happening. What follows is a long and laboured case of coitus interruptus, where the laughs are as hollow as the premise. In short, All in Good Time is a failed performance about a performance failure.
The script has an odd and musty lineage, adapted from a 2007 play (Rafta Rafta) that derived from a 1966 film (The Family Way) that itself sprung from a 1963 play by Bill Naughton. Clearly, the Anglo-Indian community, with its traditional bent, has been used to more credibly recycle the conservatism of the original movie – conservative, because Vina the virginal bride has been saving herself for Atul the inexperienced groom.
So there they are, on that first night in the bedroom of her in-laws’ home, with Atul’s fat and still-inebriated Daddy just a thin wall away, when the newly installed bed collapses under their self-conscious gropings and neighbourhood dogs bay at the commotion and she giggles and he laughs and, well, there’s always tomorrow.
But, to their frustration (and later ours), tomorrow never comes.
“It’s my first time. I want it to be special,” eager Vina (Amara Karan) insists as she pops in her Starter’s Guide to Sex video.
“I can’t do this. It’s not happening,” a distracted Atul (Reece Ritchie) whines as fat Daddy gargles in the bathroom before snoring in his sleep – a state that is rapidly becoming contagious.
Then, what begins as broad farce takes a turn into wannabe pathos when the pair find privacy, if not success, in a hotel room. Seems his erectile is dysfunctioning and, this being a very tightly knit community, word gets out. Oh, tongues wag, and much fun is poked at him. Once, a limp hot dog is served to him. Connoisseurs of cinema will recognize said dog as a sight gag – the rest of us are left to pretend we didn’t.
Meanwhile, back on the fat Daddy front, director Nigel Cole tosses in a few grainy flashbacks to introduce a parallel tale of confused parentage, the better to explain why Atul and his father have a strained history. This is where the marvellous Harish Patel, as the corpulent yet well-meaning patriarch, races to the film’s rescue, injecting a scene or two with some actual chuckles, even a measure of real poignancy. Hope flickers, but his rescue mission is cut short by a return to the same lumpy farce, and that flicker, like the flick, dims again.
All that’s left is to get the groom over his nerves and then over his bride. Of course, there are bumps in the road before things go bump in the night. Along the way, the entire community keeps their ears alert for the consummating sounds of rattling bedsprings, passionate moans, satisfied sighs. In the movie, one audience watches and wonders; alas, in the movie theatre, another does neither.