Rosie the Riveter meets Nora Ephron in Their Finest, where Gemma Arterton plays a wannabe secretary summoned to write the female dialogue in a British propaganda movie aimed at easing America into WW II. Of course, she discovers that she has a gift for screenwriting and a passion for it. As in Mad Men, there are plenty of snickers at the assumed sexism the of the era. The driven lead writer (Sam Clafton) is a contrast to her nogoodnik common law husband (Jack Huston).
Originally, the plot of the movie-within-the movie is set to be a more or less true (okay – less true) account of the Dunkirk seaborne rescue, but a hook for American audiences is required. So the filmmakers slap on a superfluous character to be played by a bonafide war hero (Jake Lacy): he’s a real hero, he’s American, he’s stunningly handsome with a gleaming smile, but he’s absolutely talentless.
One of the sound reasons to watch any movie, and this especially applies to Their Finest, is Bill Nighy. Here, he plays a vain actor sliding down the down slope of his career. Nighy, as always, is able to summon both hilarity and poignancy, from his character’s foibles and vulnerability.
I’ve always liked Gemma Arterton, and she’s good here, too. Arterton is an underappreciated actress, with winning roles in Gemma Bovary, Tamara Drewe and as the Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace.
Their Finest contains elements of the romance, comedy, historical and Girl Power genres. The romantic element might have worked had not Sam Clafton delivered such a one-note performance. Jack of some aspects and master of none, Their Finest is a harmless and appealing diversion.