First Night DVD review



Let me just say this – I have to be honest – I don’t remember the last portion of this film. Whether that was because I fell asleep or got distracted I can’t recall (my money’s on the former – perhaps I was dosing because I remember certain sporadic portions). I’m a big fan of Richard E. Grant, but he’s often underused and always underrated. Although he is in good company in this film (with the ageless Sarah Brightman as well as Mia Maestro), he is, as is so often the case, let down by external factors. In First Night there are a number of elements that just don’t click.

First Night
Director: Christopher Menaul
Cast: Peter Basham, Sarah Brightman and Edyta Budnik
Running time:  112
Age restriction: 13 L
Genre: comedy

It’s basically the story of a group of opera singers/actors, choreographers and directors who go on a country retreat to some estate in the English countryside to practice and fine tune their latest theatre production. For me though, the filmmakers really needed to decide whether this was a comedy or drama; once that decision was made they could go full steam and all out with it, but they clearly didn’t, so things inevitably fell flat on the drama side – the humour in parts, were tame.

The first fault I noticed, because everyone would (it’s glaringly obvious) was that one or two of the singers were lip syncing – You just know that Mia Maestro cannot reach those octaves, and if she can well, she didn’t sell it. Considering that she’s the first person we hear (and see) perform on stage, straight after the film’s opening sequence, it really doesn’t bode well. The acting and everything else is fine enough, but nothing really held my attention.

Suffice is to say that Opera singers are quite randy people, especially when on a country retreat… and speaking of randy, I was rather surprised at the amount of nudity and sex scenes in this film – the age restriction certainly (incorrectly) indicates it as largely family friendly (13L) – I guess I watched the pseudo R rated version, when combined with some foul language bound to make you choke on your tea.

My favourite character, just so you know, was the dog.

The Target

Opera and musical lovers might find something here, way more than I did anyway – though I have watched my fair share (the last wholly entertaining one I saw was Moulin Rouge). Okay I suppose it’s a harsh association, but the fact that First Night skirts the dramedy line is what’s throwing me off.

The Bottom line

It’s a bit like a cake mixture with a decent amount of good ingredients, only the final serving was a bit bland. It needed an extra ingredient or two, and, or maybe just a different cook and recipe.  I inflated my rating at the last second – to give it the benefit of the doubt, considering the genre issue – otherwise, for the rest of you/us, this one’s miss-able.


Two stars


About Steven Benjamin:

A Capetonian – the only son, amongst four siblings, of a demure working mother and a missionary (once upon a time) for a father. Humble and God fearing, I’m a writer looking to add a different perspective whilst also telling stories on the side. I’ve lugubriously turned to writing after failing in a mental attempt to become a Formula 1 driver. I’m currently also working on my spicy debut novel, The Quiet Days!

Steven’s personal blog

  • Steven Benjamin

    *error report* – just spotted it: “lip syncing” – not “lip sinking”, although considering the nature of the film and the lack of wind this sail, maybe the mix up is appropriate