27 Mar 2019

Review - Daffodils: a romantic musical with Kiwi hits and few surprises

From At The Movies, 7:31 pm on 27 March 2019

The most surprising thing about Daffodils – the highly-anticipated film adaptation of a NZ stage musical featuring Kiwi pop hits – is how heavily promoted it's been, writes Simon Morris.

Simon Morris: Generally, our films have just enough budget to get made, leaving very little for publicity.

Not this time. I went to one of the dozens of big premieres around the country, and I have to say the anticipation was palpable.

Given that Daffodils is an old-fashioned love-story, illuminated by New Zealand's Greatest Pop Hits, it's not surprising that the screening I went to was mostly attended by women of a certain age.

And they were all there for a good time. In other words, I was definitely in the right audience for Daffodils.

The story of Eric and Rose spans the years 1966 to about 20 years later, but the songs aren't particularly site or era-specific.

'She's a Mod' segues into Bic Runga's 'Drive' and Th'Dudes' 'Bliss' without worrying about historic authenticity. The important thing is whether the words fit the story.

Anyway, the story is that Hamilton boy Eric - played by Kiwi Home and Away star George Mason - meets a distraught Rose - Kiwi TV actress Rose McIver - in the Hamilton Botanical Gardens.

She's wandering among the Daffodils…

Eric and Rose strike sparks off each other, without explaining what either of them are doing there, why Rose is so upset, and why Rose's battle-axe mum is so cross that Eric got her daughter back in one piece.

Well, we're going to have to get used to not having things spelled out for us, I'm afraid.

Anyway, Rose later tracks down Eric working at a record shop, and despite his rather lame taste in music, she asks him out.

The original Daffodils was a stage cabaret show, written by Rochelle Bright, who's adapted it for the screen along with director David Stubbs.

And the format they've adopted is to frame it as a narrative by the couple's daughter Maisie, played by local pop star Kimbra.

So, since Maisie exists, we have to assume the couple will stay together for some time since she was clearly born rather later than 1966.

But first Eric drops his bombshell on his and Rose's first date. Like many other Kiwis, he's off on his big OE.

We follow him to swinging London, where he and Rose write to each other every day, to the tune of 'Counting the Beat', for some reason.

Then one day Eric calls Rose long-distance and pops the question.

This is not a particularly novel story so far, but savvy audiences familiar with romantic musicals have clearly got their eyes peeled for a stumbling block or two.

So what could possibly stop the attractive couple from staying together, and humming several volumes of Kiwi Solid Gold Hits to baby Maisie when she turns up?

The answer turns out to be their respective families - Rose's mum, who you remember doesn't like Eric, and Eric's unpleasant father, who spends much of his limited screen time putting Eric down.

But these plot devices need rather more fleshing out than they get here.

The trouble is there's nobody else here to speak of apart from the Golden Couple.

They have friends, we're told, but not ones with speaking lines. Their families barely exist, even the ones that are meant to be pushing the plot along.

I wouldn't mind except I was told by Maisie I was going to get some pretty amazing surprises.

This is a sizeable claim, and it's up to you whether it gets fulfilled. My audience came out reasonably happy as far as I could tell.

But if Daffodils had given them a great big cheesy ending - over 'I Got you', say, or 'For Today' or something - there would have been no "reasonably happy" about it.

It's a musical, it's a romance, it's New Zealand's greatest hits.

Give us an unambiguous, happy ending, for goodness sake. Nobody will sneer at you, I promise!

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