A problematic, erotically charged new film about the French resistance (title A little death… geddit?) has attracted the attention of studio bosses. Somewhat compromised himself by outdated shots, producer Cameron O’Neill (Steve Coogan) is tasked with solving the problem. He hires respected feminist filmmaker “Bobby” Sohrabi (Sarah Solemani) to help him convince the vile director (Djilali Rez) to reshoot the offending material. During their lively discussion, said director – whose French accent is as obscene as his views on women – drops dead.
Then the fun begins. Freed from the deceased monster – a cold-eyed, vaguely Epsteinian figure – Cameron and Bobby set about navigating a post-#MeToo Hollywood, trying to gauge what’s and isn’t allowed on screen; which words are taboo and which are not; Under what circumstances may an older man in a position of power and authority date a younger subordinate woman?
For example, Bobby berates 50-year-old Cameron for his relationship with his personal assistant, who is half his age. She’s so young she dumped him on WhatsApp, as Coogan’s slightly contradictory studio manager explains with an almost Boris Johnson-like air of wry satisfaction. He claims to have loved her, so what’s the problem? Bobby gets her point across by asking him when her birthday is (“um, October like that?”) and where she’s from (“…um, starts with ‘O’. Oklahoma…Oregon”). Cameron sarcastically suggests that she can approve his next potential partner and she looks very much like doing so.
We also learn that Cameron slept with the film’s female lead, a French “honeypot” Resistance agent played by Sienna Miller. She conveys the bitter energy of a person who finds the whole ethos of their profession demeaning and at the same time rebelling against it. She may have slept with Cameron, but their previous, presumably brief, intimacy also means she can throw her spiked panties at him and tell him to pay her more.
It’s noisy, difficult stuff to navigate this new ethical landscape. Solemani, Coogan and Miller – well supported by Wanda Sykes, Paul Rudd and Lolly Adefope – all do an excellent job of pushing against the contemporary obstacles that make the creative process more difficult. Take a line like “Grab my hair and fuck me!” allegedly uttered around 1943 by a beautiful French resistance fighter posing as a sex worker. is it still ok Should the scene emphasize the amusement of the Nazi officer (who will soon suffer his minor and major deaths) and thereby objectify the woman? Or should it be because of the woman herself, who is the more central character? And when it comes to the woman, where should the camera look? And depending on how explicit would pleasure be? The forced intervention of an on-set intimacy consultant slows the production by turning into an ethics seminar, as does a glamorous “woke” actor trying to calm down with the role of the sadistic Nazi (since the Third Reich preferred men to their hair not to depilate body hair).
The problem with chivalry aren’t the topical issues, the dry, witty writing style, or the wonderfully world-weary pairing of Coogan and Solemani. Despite their different views and origins, both have rather cynical, stubborn, outspoken personalities. This is all highly intriguing and highly captivating. It’s just the sheer bold scale of the comedy’s almost pornographic presentation and profane language that threatens to be overwhelming.
There is a particularly heated discussion as to whether the “C-word” can legitimately be used to describe female genitals or parts of them or a human being. The dialogue one chivalry is basically a mix of barracks curses, porn movie directions, and the kind of intimate jargon you might encounter during a gynecology case briefing. I don’t know if aged Naked attraction, babe station and Nadine Dorries are there or should there be limits to what is seen and heard on television. But I think chivalry helped me to find my own limits as a viewer. Enough now.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/chivalry-review-channel-4-steve-coogan-b2062607.html Knight Review: Steve Coogan and Sarah Solemani are perfectly matched in this latest Channel 4 comedy