All you young women out there trying to achieve a career in the arts? Maybe you’re like me and trying to make it out there with writing perhaps? Well, step right up to spend $18.50 of your hard-earned money and a whopping 1 hour and 40 minutes of your valuable time to learn how a 70 year old English man who makes jokes about Hitler and slavery in the 1800s can indeed become your muse.
Starting off the film, we meet a twenty-something-year-old Amélie look alike called Bella Brown, played by Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey). She’s lost, she’s uninspired, she’s uncertain of how to reach her dream of becoming a children’s book writer. As the narrator informs us “There was nothing normal about the girl”.
We are introduced to her supposedly “quirky” habits of having 7 toothbrushes for each day of the week, checking the door five times before leaving the house and the meticulous arrangement of her monotone wardrobe. Mind you, throughout the film her wardrobe confused me entirely on whether I was watching a period piece celebrating the 1920s suffrage movement, an episode of Call the Midwife or yet another Lemony Snicket film adaptation — A mishmash of all maybe? But wait there’s more, we learn that she actually has obsessive compulsive disorder and Botanophobia (an extreme fear of plants). You thought 13 Reasons Why was bad? Praise the twenty first century for its continuous trivialisation and misrepresentation of mental health issues.
Getting on with it, the story begins with Bella being told she’d be evicted from her house if she fails to tend for her “unmitigated eco-apocalypse” of a garden. With the help of her next door neighbour, Alfred, a cranky old man, and her “personal chef”, an Irishman called Vernon, she is supposedly inspired by them to be closer to nature, to appreciate life and literally blossom from her timid self into a “beautiful woman”. At this point I sat in the cinema extremely uncomfortable on how they basically forced their way into her personal life despite her expressed sense of discomfort.
I thought it couldn’t get any worse. In swoops her love interest, an “inventor” called Billy who lives on a staple diet of hardboiled eggs and coincidentally enough looks like he just time travelled from the Industrial Revolution. Both of them “fall in love” over an unrealistic span of what felt like a few days. They connect over their appreciation for books and a mechanical bird which was one of Billy’s supposed “inventions”. This mechanical bird, given the name Luna, becomes the subject of Bella’s children book, which by the way had suspiciously “ethnic”, “orientalist” drawings I failed to understand.
Through the film, she’s basically told by every man: what to do, what to eat, who to become, where to go. But that’s okay, if the old man is portrayed as the fatherly figure, the cook has adorable twin daughters and the love interest influences Bella Brown to pursue her creative endeavours, they can’t be problematic right? Paired with a conventional-whimsical-uplifting, extremely loud soundtrack, which in my opinion was basically a poor attempt to draw your attention from the bad editing. Catch This Beautiful Fantastic and it’s all white cast at the cinemas to learn more on how befriending your next door neighbour can “cure” your mental health and falling in love with a mediocre man can land you your next big break in life.