This feelbad festive drama had a peculiar downbeat feel which didn’t especially please but was somewhat redeemed by a very good performance by Connie Fisher.
What was good about it?
• We thought that the presence of the winner of How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was mere stunt casting, a bid to get bums on sofas. But it turned out that Connie Fisher really can act and, despite the implausibilities in her character, Gemma, we believed in her all the way as she embezzled Hallgate council’s parking meter money and spent it on Elvis Presley memorabilia of varied levels of tackiness.
• Geraldine James did a good turn as the ghastly Joyce; Jim Carter was convincing as her Reading FC-supporting redundant grass mower husband.
What was bad about it?
• At another time of the year, the dourness may have worked, but this didn’t really hit the festive season mood. Gemma has a nasty outspoken stepmother who makes life hell for her and her wishy-washy father. She also has a dreadful job, made worse by bullying colleagues – and even when she escapes into The King’s kingdom, moments of happiness are only very fleeting.
• We are very fond of Joe Absolom but he seemed miscast as the stammering lad who loved Gemma – she was always on his mind. Together, they looked like mother and son rather than possible partners.
• The Christmas party scene in which the timid Gemma was tricked into performing karaoke. She sang The Wonder of You as if channeling Julie Andrews and we hated it but we were supposed to love it as much as her cheering colleagues.