Film Review: Marvellous

At Christmas my parents purchased a copy of Marvellous, a biographical film produced purely for the small screen about Neil Baldwin, a man from Stoke-on-Trent who apparently has done it all by essentially just being in the right place at the right time with a big enough smile. And aside from the fact that every remarkable claim in this film is based on the truth, according to my parents it was also “excellent and well worth seeing”.

Since it stars Toby Jones in the lead role, their proclamations of quality could potentially hold true, although while I like Jones and am naturally drawn to him, I find that more often than not he somehow leaves me unfulfilled. I never quite managed to connect to his performances. It’s the same response that I repetitively get from Colin Firth; I’m unable to fight off the draw of their name but then constantly end up feeling let down.

Toby Jones & Gemma Jones - Marvellous

And sadly, Marvellous has managed to take my standard detachment to Jones and ramp it up to a whole new level. I’ve seen some bizarre stories in my time but this one, as shown regularly on screen, really did take the biscuit, the the sandwiches, and the rest of the afternoon tea. And probably tomorrow’s left overs as well.

You can tell that this is a film produced purely for television, and then, for a one off post dinner viewing at that. Everything just feels low budget and slightly unloved. You can almost sense a layer of embarrassment hanging over it, and when the real life Neil Baldwin appears on screen alongside Jones, the documentary film starts to fall into a tone of vanity publishing from which it never recovers.

Honestly, it feels like a story Baldwin wants to show his mates rather than a film you want to sit and enjoy.

Toby Jones  Neil Baldwin - Marvellous

I just found very little in it to really draw me in, hold my interest or keep me entertained. There is no reference to time, or sense of chronological order, to the film and so it becomes impossible to gauge when anything takes place. The style and design of the world he lives in suggesting the events portrayed are taking place many years ago, before without appearing to age, it will suddenly cut to a scene involving modern day celebrities and references. It’s impossible to follow and understand. I really do not know if it was set in the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s or a mixture of the lot. And like Baldwin’s age, some things will forever be a mystery.

It first introduces you to Baldwin as he abandons the Circus and his act as Nello the Clown, and for me the entire film had that self ridicule and lampooning with which a clown basis his act. While the events are said to be true and Baldwin is involved, I just kept feeling that it was poking fun at him in a strange, subconscious way. That rather than outline the most bizarre career path in a life that epitomises the phrases “it’s not what you know but who you know” and “if you don’t ask you don’t get” it simply dressed him up in a clown suit and called him names, but it’s OK because he was always laughing and smiling.

Toby Jones Fancy Dress Chicken - Marvellous

The tone of the film created a sense of friendly bullying and I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like it because, underneath the loitering naïveté that underpins Baldwin, he is a simple minded, likeable character who sees the world in two shades – black or white. And while for almost everyone and anyone, life cannot be lived without the shades of grey in-between, Marvellous shows that once in a blue moon, the right person can make a binary approach to life survivable. Somehow.

I have come away from Marvellous completely bemused, confused and disappointed. I certainly wouldn’t bother watching it again, and Jones, as sadly predicted has left me disinterested in the overall results of his labour. I cannot really find one redeeming feature: I didn’t find it funny, I spent a lot of time watching the clock counting down the remaining time and ultimately I cannot recommend Marvellous at all. If you know Neil Baldwin then you probably think it’s great. I don’t, however.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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