I am almost wholly unfamiliar with the oeuvre of Richard Curtis. Apart from seeing bits of the Vicar of Dibley, my knowledge of his more substantial work (contender for Inappropriate Adjective of The Year) comes at secondhand. But last night I watched the first half hour of his television film The Girl in the Café. That I watched any of it was down to the presence of Bill Nighy and if human life weren't finite I might well have watched all of it and been sufficiently entertained not to fall into a coma.
I admire Bill Nighy as much as the next person but in this film Bill Nighy was playing Bill Nighy. Maybe he thought he'd do it himself before Rory Bremner starts doing him. But somebody should have told him to tone it down a bit.
The scene with him leaving the café and wondering whether to return to speak again to the girl almost developed into a stand-alone short film. One could imagine it as piece of video art at Tate Modern: Man Leaving Café.
He's a terrific actor and it's wonderful watching all that pocket-patting, tie-straightening, hair-slicking and eye-darting. But just because he can do it so well doesn't mean that directors shouldn't rein him in a bit.
I switched on again about 45 minutes later and, although Bill Nighy and the girl were now lying a foot apart in a double bed, he was still behaving like a 14 year old whose mother's best friend has come on to him at the summer barbecue after drinking too much Chardonnay. Apparently Curtis's male characters always behave like this and I can see that Hugh Grant is perfect casting for such roles. But it seemed all wrong for the wolfish Nighy who one assumes would reach first base with a woman before the rest of the boys had got their boots on.
I believe that Curtis's films are very popular in America, which must reinforce a lot of false stereotypes about British males and their relationships with women. In the real world, British males start having sex earlier than anywhere else in Europe.
Of course, that may be because they don't notice that while they've been stammering and patting their breast pocket and straightening their tie, their girlfriends have removed their trousers.
I can see the appeal of Curtis's 'romcoms', even if, on the evidence of last night, they seem more a like a 'romcon'. There's no reason to get worked up into a fit of snobbish indignation about them. But whilst a water ice is a perfectly pleasant thing, it's supposed to be a palate refresher between courses. Consumed as a main course, you'll soon be wishing you'd had something more substantial.