Rich people problems are one of cinema’s perennial favourites; when done well, the results are last year’s Crazy Rich Asians or Joanna Hogg’s upcoming The Souvenir. When done sloppily, self-indulgently, and without the slightest self-awareness, you get Bittersweet Symphony. Jamie Adams’ second film at this year’s Edinburgh Film Festival follows Iris (Suki Waterhouse), a young songwriter who has landed a contract to score a multi-million dollar Hollywood picture. Her agent sends over rom-com composer Eleanor Roberts (Jennifer Grey), an alcoholic with deep insecurities and a compulsive need for attention underlying her accomplishments. Add in Iris’ mother’s terminal illness and her own quasi-artistic self-doubt and the result is a thoroughly exhausting, irritating film.
The privilege seeping through every frame of Iris’s home life makes all these petty power plays laughable. At one point, Eleanor tells Iris to get out of the house – the comfort and luxury are a distraction to composing. This is delivered with the absolute navel-gazing of one who believes every word she is saying but would never take this advice herself. With such a backdrop, the sisterly and maternal relationships at the film’s tragic emotional core ring irritating rather than true.
Waterhouse and Grey have both proved their acting abilities – or at least watchability – in the past, but the thin and obnoxious characterisations provided by this script do them no favours. Their myopic, inane conversations about art might prove entertainingly out of touch were it not for the presence of the offensively annoying supporting men. They supply nothing aside from self-pity and constant whining about why the women in their lives keep rejecting them – displays of mediocrity that are painful to watch.
The only redeeming quality of Bittersweet Symphony is that it clocks in at 89 minutes. Dreadfully dull and self-indulgent, this drama stuns with its lack of emotional engagement.
CAST: Suki Waterhouse, Jennifer Grey, Poppy Delevingne, Craig Roberts
DIRECTOR: Jamie Adams
WRITERS: Jamie Adams
SYNOPSIS: A self-absorbed musician and her equally self-absorbed family have a disastrous Christmas when her even more self-absorbed idol comes to visit.