It is said there is nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to movies. The same structure and plots are used again and again and audiences find a level of comfort in that. However, some stories have been under the sun for so long, when reused the result is a dried, flavorless story no one wants to take a bite of. Such is the case with Leading Lady.
The film, directed by Henk Pretorius, follows British drama teacher Jodie (Katie McGrath) who dreams of becoming a famous actress. She tries her best to get her semi-boyfriend’s attention, a very prolific director whose next movie is set in South Africa. Jodie keeps trying to show him she is capable of playing the leading role of an Afrikaans war heroine but he isn’t taking her seriously. Determined to get the part, she travels to South Africa to prepare for her role and learn the culture but only a farmer can help her find her way. Kobus (Bok van Blerk), who has plenty to worry about with his unfruitful land due to the drought, is wary of Jodie and her intentions but agrees to help her because the publicity of the film might help the Willemese farm. Out of her element but focused on her success, Jodie soon finds life can be more than the spotlight she has always wished for.
It is the familiar story of girl has a dream and loves a man who is too into himself to appreciate it. Girl meets new boy. Boy and girl dislike each other but eventually find they have feelings for one another. Girl is torn between what she has always wanted and what she has recently discovered. Many other rom-coms follow this exact formula. So where does Leading Lady fall short when others have become romantic icons?
The movie feels entirely too predictable. While one might have a good idea where the story is headed, every turn should not be so obvious. Part of the predictability comes from the characters interaction. Jodie’s boyfriend, Daniel Taylor, is too into himself and his fame for the audience to even root for him. He is so clearly not for our main protagonist it makes it impossible for anybody to understand why Jodie is torn between these two men.
However, the charm blossoms when she arrives in South Africa. The landscape is shot beautifully and the filmmakers manage to capture the warm essence of the country and its people. Kobus's storyline ends up being much more compelling than Jodie’s. After his father’s death, the estate is deeply in debt and because there isn’t a harvest and they are in danger of losing the farm. Kobus’s family and friends are quirky and a bit eccentric in comparison to Jodie’s overly polite manner but they are genuine and sincere and they wish to help Jodie and be part of her projects. There was great potential in these minor characters but they end up feeling wasted when so much screen time is offered to Jodie and Kobus and their will-they-wont-they relationship.
Leading Lady has bubbly energy to it, with its location and it's feel good tone, but in never goes higher than a gentle simmer. It is charming but not captivating. It is amusing but never completely funny. It is a nice movie to watch but you will feel like you have seen it several times before.
You can see the official trailer for Leading Lady below.