Peter Biskind’s book on the Miramax era, and specifically the reign of Harvey Weinstein, has lots of remarkable asides about the maverick producer’s behaviour, even if it skirts the issues that are central to the 2020 court-case. Down and Dirty Pictures is more concerned with the cultural vandalism that Weinstein did, but it’s probably worth balancing out with Miramax’s undeniable success in terms in acquiring and distributing low-budget film. Nick Hamm’s Martha Meet Frank Daniel and Lawrence was recently thrust into he news cycle when star Monica Potter claimed that her refusal of Weinstein’s advances damaged her career; with only two films in the last 15 years, the numbers would appear to bear her story out.
If such black-balling took place, it’s a real shame, because Potter was a personable female lead who might have had a different career if Weinstein had not agreed to pick up this British rom-com with an imported star, cut all the swearing and half-heartedly released it as The Very Thought of You. Potter plays Martha, a car-rental clerk from Minneapolis who travels to the UK with $35 in her pocket and promptly meets three men, Frank (Rufus Sewell) , Daniel (Tom Hallander) and Lawrence (Joseph Fiennes). These men are friends, but they’re unaware that each of them are romancing the same woman, and she’s equally unaware that the three men are rivals for her affection.
This convoluted story is told by Lawrence to Pedersen (Ray Winstone); Lawrence feels that the confidence of a psychiatrist will help him straighten out the issues, lthough the punch-line for this sub-plot is unexpectedly great. London circa 1998 looks green, lush and warm, and there’s a slather of indie music on the soundtrack.
And best of all is how woke Peter Morag’s script is; Daniel and Frank both adore Martha, but can’t stop talking about their own successes and failures for long enough to listen to her. Lawrence passes the test by listening and understanding; the grand gestures of many rom-coms are revealed as male vanity here. And unlike most rom-coms, the climax does not involve some grand and public gesture by a man, but rather Martha takes things into her own hands and sorts it out. ‘It’s the best rom-com ever…’ screeches the pull-quote of the poster, which might be overstating the case; it’s certainly one of the most under-rated. Every so often romantically-minded heterosexual men have to pull a rom-com out from somewhere for shared viewing; Martha Meets Frank, Daniel and Lawrence might be the best option in terms of springing a surprise.