Yikes. Despite occasional twitches of life, Scotland remains a non-starter in terms of home-grown film and tv production, with empty quangos officiating over expensive office space and a cross-party political denial of any Scottish voice who tries to say anything about their lot. Instead, we’re a cash-grabbing background for green-screen fantasy shows, with a Mickey Mouse infrastructure that closes cinemas and bankrupts festivals when the government money is abruptly pulled out. We are, however, always open for business for vanity projects like Then Came You, an entry in the twee shortbread-tin/sh*tbox genre that’s heralded such recent atrocities as A Castle for Christmas.
This time, it’s retired talk show host Kathie Lee Gifford who is indulging her worst instincts, ill-advisedly writing her own script and playing the lead role as Annabelle, a widow from Nantucket who decides to deposit her late husband’s ashes in Scotland. Annabelle books herself a few nights rest at an Inveraray castle managed by Howard (Craig Ferguson) who serves as chief cook and bottle-washer in a gag which was old in 1983’s Local Hero and has aged horrifically since. Annabelle’s Yankee ways cause cultural confusion; should Howard marry his old flame? She’s played by Elizabeth Hurley, billed above the title but present for less time that than an egg-boiling would take.
Annabelle and Howard are presented as connected souls; they both love movies, and discuss Psycho, Titanic, Forrest Gump, The Silence of the Lambs and more. Pretty much the entire population of the world has seen the same movies, but somehow this shared ground is seen as a fateful plus that means these two should be together. They also share a love of ancient single entendres about cocks and spunk, and despite the chemistry one might expect from two talk-show hosts, their comedy sex scene is genuinely excruciating, as are the resistible CU Jimmy pratfall interjections of Scots comic Ford Kiernan as a frisky groundskeeper.
Annabelle mentions Barbara Streisand as a role model, and it’s easy to see where Gifford gets her ideas of what a film might be; having characters admire your shapely legs seems forced when you’re writing your own script, and so it proves here. Then Came You is a rich person’s folly, a vanity project and an affront to the nation which supposedly provides the backdrop. That Scots are the playthings of the rich and used-to-be-famous isn’t Gifford’s fault, but there’s nothing to cheer in this exploitation of her WASP-y white privilege. So never mind Kathie Lee Gifford, when production costs have never been lower and distribution has never been easier, why can’t Scottish people make their own films about their own country?