Booked Out (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/03/2012

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 86 mins

There's no denying that this British romcom's heart is in the right place, but this is ultimately something of a disappointment, thanks to a frustratingly patchy script, a lack of chemistry between the two leads and a willful blindness towards its impossibly irritating central character.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Bryan O'Neil (who appears on a park bench after the end credits, not-exactly-Hitchcock-style), Booked Out is a British romcom set predominantly in a London apartment building. Newcomer Mirren Burke plays Ailidh (pronounced Ay-lee), a Scottish bookseller and quirky would-be artist who spends much of her time spying on her neighbours and taking Polaroids of everyone who enters and leaves her building.

In doing so, she falls for floppy haired Jacob (Rollo Weeks, presumably cast for his resemblance to Skins' Nicholas Hoult), who spends a portion of each day visiting mysteriously mopey Jacqueline (Claire Garvey) in the flat opposite Ailidh's. After engineering a meeting by deliberately dropping her folders on him in the stairwell, Ailidh and Jacob start hanging out together, becoming frequent visitors to their elderly neighbour Mrs Nicholls (Sylvia Syms), who's convinced her recently deceased husband is still alive.

The Bad
There's a distinct wannabe-Amelie vibe running throughout Booked Out (quirky girl secretly interfering in her neighbours' lives etc), but sadly it lacks the charm, invention or energy for that comparison to do it any favours. For one thing, Ailidh is exceptionally irritating, even by the standards of Hollywood's worst Manic Pixie Dream Girls (e.g. Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown or Natalie Portman in Garden State), but worse than that, her stalkerish behaviour is never challenged or discovered and she's also allowed to get away with the kind of violent and borderline insane outburst that would have any sane suitor rethinking the whole “potential girlfriend” thing.

However, the biggest problem is the script, which creates difficulties for its characters that could be easily fixed just by Ailidh asking Jacob about Jacqueline an hour earlier, while Jacqueline herself seems to need serious professional treatment that she doesn't appear to be getting. It also doesn't help that there's no chemistry at all between Ailidh and Jacob, while the dialogue frequently feels forced and unnatural.

The Worse
On top of that, the film's quirkiness eventually becomes overbearing, though, thankfully, it provides its own test case quirkiness scene, in which Ailidh insists they go to a party as animal hybrids and dresses Jacob as a bear-huahua and herself as a pengaroo. If you think that sounds charming, you might want to give Booked Out the benefit of the doubt; if not, steer well clear.

Worth seeing?
Despite a potentially interesting set-up, Booked Out is ultimately something of a disappointment thanks to a poorly structured script that's far too in love with its irritating lead character.

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Content updated: 18/07/2018 20:55

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