I’m quite cynical about Hollywood insider films (including Oscar front-runner ‘La La Land’). The joke used to be that if you wanted to make a film that was certain to get accolades, it had to be about the Holocaust. Now, you only have to make one that praises Hollywood. Although ‘Their Finest’ is a 100% insider movie that also manages to tell a World War II story, it never dives into pat-yourself-on-the-back territory and certainly doesn’t feel like it was made just for an Oscar run. The movie has a beating heart of its own. It’s founded on merit and integrity.
Before the United States entered World War II, England was struggling. The nation’s morale was low, which meant that the country was losing on both fronts. England’s government was big on using the film industry to help rally those at home and offer a distraction from the destruction and relentlessly terrible news. British leaders decided that if they could make a pro-war film that could rally both their own people and the U.S., they might be able to persuade the powers-that-be in the United States to join the war.
An unrecognizable Sam Claflin plays the head screenwriter tasked with creating such a film. Gemma Arterton is a female writer hired to churn out the “slop” (a derogatory term used to describe the dialogue written for female characters). She quickly makes it apparent that she’s a far stronger writer, so she’s tasked with more than what she was initially hired for.
Arterton plays the lead wonderfully and she’s surrounded by an equally fantastic ensemble. Bill Nighy shows up in a role that leaves him, once again, lovably stealing absolutely every scene in which he appears.
Coming from Lone Scherfig (director of ‘An Education‘), ‘Their Finest’ successfully blends several styles of filmmaking and storytelling. It works as a World War II drama. It works as an insider tale about the golden age of filmmaking. It works as a female-empowerment film. It works as a romance tale. ‘Their Finest’ is a sweet little film that is very hard to dislike.