Anyone who has studied history, and that's just about everyone, will find something to enjoy in Bill, a big screen leap for the popular TV team that expands the scope of the show without letting go of the good humour and wit beloved by millions.
Taking a cue from Shakespeare in Love, but playing the idea of the Bard's formative years in a very different way, Bill features Mathew Bayton as the young playwright, seeking his fortune in London and falling under the wing of Christopher Marlowe (Jim Howick). The historical aspect is brought to the fore as King Phillip II (Ben Willbond) concocts a scheme to eliminate Queen Elizabeth I (Helen McCrory) by gunpowder, with Bill's first play giving him a pretext to carry out his plan. Bill's excitement about seeing his work brought to the stage is tempered by a dawning realisation that he's only a pawn in a bigger political game.
Bill might well work for worldwide audiences as a cheerful parody of Shakespeare in Love, but has its own sense of comic invention. It's refreshing to see a British film with such spirited performances, with Willbond sporting several moustaches at once and his co-writer Laurence Rickard superbly deadpan as the violently anti-Catholic Walsingham. Bill never dumbs down history, but reflects it through amusingly modern updates; the castle security go to Code Woad when the believe there's a high risk of attack, and Phillip's men are subject to a search by a decidedly modern customs officer. Damien Lewis has a brief but amusing cameo, and all the performers are on point; you can tell that they've got confidence in the material, and they wring every possible laugh from it. Sneaking into cinemas with barely a breath of publicity, Bill should find a wide and appreciative audience once it finds a home on the small screen; carefully plotted and with genuine wit behind the gags, it's the best British comedy of the year. That may not be saying much, given that big-screen comedy is seemingly a lost art, but Bill is just the thing to put a rare smile on the faces of adults and children alike.
28 of 35 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this