Having never had one of those debilitating, but not too painful, illnesses that confine you to your bed for a couple of weeks, there hasn’t been time to read the epic that is ‘War and Peace.’ Now perhaps there’s no need, having this jolly romp to keep me going. Everything looks gorgeous, the people, the houses, the countryside.
The first scene is a grand party, with beautiful creatures flitting to and fro. I can’t help a momentary snigger when they address each other in names that take half a minute to say, Alex PopDownToTheShopsonov, that sort of thing. Into this veritable Eden lurches an outsider. You can tell he is, because he’s wearing ordinary clothes, rather than looking as if he’s wrapped himself in ornamental brocade curtains like everybody else. Also, GASP, he doesn’t regard Napoleon as the devil incarnate. He bowls about, gesticulating madly, while the ladies titter in the background.
‘Our drawing rooms are full of overfed aristocrats who have no idea what real life is like…’ This is our underdog Pierre, who looks like a mash-up of Chris’ Addison’s character from ‘The Thick of It’ and Harry Potter.
Meanwhile the moody hero ‘Moody Andre the Moody One’ mooches about moodily, as if his is the worst lot ever and he’s in a right mood, despite having a pretty little wife about to make him a father.
Just when I’m wondering where the Ferrero Rocher are, Stephen Rea announces he and his spawn are off to try their luck at the ambassador’s reception. Anything to keep him away from Rebecca Front, who keeps thrusting her pauper son at all and sundry.
Pierre trudges back to killjoy ‘relative’ Rea’s house, brooding on how different he is, but then has an about face. He may look all virginal Vicar of Dibley, but is in fact a bit of a dirty dog, so slopes off to one of those parties our esteemed PM probably indulged in at the Bullingdon Club. So scandalous this party is, we are only treated to tantalisingly brief clips from his hungover brain. And Rebecca Front, who clearly has been cloned because she pops up everywhere and knows everything, informs us a policeman was tied to a bear and thrown in the river. Sheesh, these guys know how to party.
Pierre stops off at another posh house when he is supposed to be paying his respects to his dying father. ‘His natural son’, Rea had sneered earlier. ‘Did he have any other kind?’ Gillian Anderson enquired nervously. Erm, in the early nineteenth century, I don’t think so.
Pierre gives a pat to one of the pigs as he comes in the back entrance (oops vicar, where’s your Cameron?) before bumbling around Lily James, who’s wandered in from Downton Abbey, sporting a thoroughly modern fringe and calling out ‘bye’.
He might have stayed all night, watching Ade Edmondson’s comedy dancing, if his dad hadn’t had another stroke, necessitating an immediate visit.
‘We’ll go together,’ announced Front determinedly, her mind clearly set on getting some real gold foil-wrapped chocolate nut balls.
At the dying man’s bedside she is truly MAGNIFICENT, shoving Pierre into his father’s embrace and wrestling off the hapless cousin of the dastardly Rea, with his evil plot to destroy the true will, thus robbing Pierre of loads of dosh.
Now Pierre can be proper rich and dress in curtains like the rest of them. Like that bit in ‘Pretty Woman’ where Julia Roberts goes back to the shop that had refused her custom, he can tour yet another grand party while all the girls make eyes at him.
He looks just as bemused by this turn of events and feels most uncomfortable at having all this wealth. Rea has to do more about turns than if his Jag was boxed in by a Ford Cortina as he pretends he’s been bezzy mates with Pierre all along and engineers the engagement (and natural sharing of the cash), to his daughter Helene. Perhaps if he paid more attention to his own household, he’d notice she’s regularly in flagrante delicto with her brother which will surely out by Episode 3 at the latest.
War doesn’t happen till the last twenty minutes, where the generals not only get to wear extremely fancy curtains, but also pirate hats with parrots on them. It’s as bloody and gruesome as you might expect. And extremely one-sided. What were the Russians thinking of trying to do Rock, Paper, Scissors with their spears when the other side had guns? Rank amateurs. Andre, who’s cheered up somewhat, keeps putting himself in more and more danger. It’s as if he had a sign saying ‘Shoot Here’ on his head. I don’t think he’ll ever get to be moody round his wife again.