Considering how much the privacy allotted to public figures has eroded, with phone-hacking scandals and ultra-aggressive paparazzi, the lack of empathy offered to Alice Eve in the UK romantic comedy The Decoy Bride is hard to manage. She’s meant to be an Oscar-nominated actress who flees to a remote island in the Outer Hebrides to get married in peace after tabloid intrusions interrupt her first attempt to tie the knot, but she’s primarily a device to bring together David Tennant and Kelly Macdonald, who require an opportunity to bicker their way into love. Macdonald is a local who slunk home in defeat after her most recent relationship went sour, and Tennant is—oops—there to marry Eve, a devoted fan (possibly the only one) of his novel.
The film, conceptualized and co-written by comedian Sally Phillips (Smack The Pony), doesn’t make Eve into any sort of easy villain, but it doesn’t allow her actual personhood, either. It seems to agree with its gossip journalists that celebrities are an exotic alien species placed on earth to be gawked at, waited on by personal entourages, and mocked behind their backs for their odd enthusiasms and incomprehensible emotions. This explains why no one seems bothered by the fact that the leads meet cute (she’s hired to play a decoy bride to distract the press), get thrown together, and maneuver through ponderous hijinks on the same day one of them is due at the altar with someone else. In the context of most rom-coms, it’s expected that Macdonald’s mom should prompt Macdonald to confess her true feelings, lest she forever regret it. But in the context where she’s confessing them to the groom in a wedding, whom she only met a day or so before, it’s pretty insane.
Tennant and Macdonald are appealing performers, but they aren’t given scenes that convey they even like each other, much less that they’re irresistibly drawn to each other, circumstances be damned. Dylan Moran, Michael Urie, and Federico Castelluccio fill out the talented but ill-used cast, and the Scottish scenery is appropriately pretty. But The Decoy Bride is inescapably based on how romantic it is that someone would throw over his doting, famous fiancée for an ordinary girl. (Presumably because the former should be able to easily find someone new?) It doesn’t play out as anything but obnoxious.