Hello Carter review

Hello Carter marks Anthony Wilcox’s first feature film as writer and director, having cut his teeth as a second unit director. Sadly, this dreary ‘romantic comedy’ will do little to mark out this débutant as a fresh talent.

Before the story begins, Carter (Charlie Cox) has had a terrible year. He was made redundant from his job and dumped by Kelly (Annabelle Wallis), his long time girlfriend. He’s not dealing with either of these things particularly well. And wow do we know this? Because the opening scenes are loaded with a kind of expositional and faux-raw, emotional dialogue that would seem like a step too far for even a Christopher Nolan film.

Having drilled us with the backstory, the film embarks on an account of the next 24 hours or so in Carter’s life. This is when things are going to change for him, thanks to a series of horribly contrived and poorly executed ‘wild’ twists.

Along the way, Carter encounters Kelly’s brother, Aaron (Paul Schneider), and agrees to deliver a message on his behalf, in exchange for Kelly’s new phone number. This leads to Carter’s ‘accidental’ kidnapping of a baby, for reasons that never become entirely clear.

Carter is presented with so many opportunities to behave rationally, or even just more believably, and to extricate himself from the ensuing nonsense but he, and many of the other characters, are constantly engaged in utterly implausible actions. This is all, of course, to propel the plot forward and to add some wacky ‘comedy’ into proceedings. It becomes pretty hard to sit through eighty-two minutes of this.

And despite these determined attempts to give the film some narrative momentum, it still stalls at ever corner. Hello Carter lacks the drive that pushes screwball comedies through their bizarre plot contrivances. Bringing Up Baby or What’s Up Doc?, for instance, get away with a great deal because of their momentum.

Hello Carter also fails as a comedy, with it sometimes not even being entirely clear whether certain beats are supposed to be funny. This isn’t helped by some painfully awkward and excessively mannered performances from some of the supporting cast.

Paul Schneider, for instance, is doing something with his thinly written tangled role, but it’s hard to understand what. I wondered at one point if he was supposed to be doing an Edward Norton impression – which would maybe fit with his character being an actor – but even this potential gag is lost, buried in pages of unnatural dialogue.

Jodie Whitaker is the one actor who isn’t entirely drowned out by the film’s stink, but she has almost nothing to do in a simplistic, condescending role. Whitaker has been cast as Jenny, ‘the pretty girl who goes along with male lead.’ And so she remains, even when he gets her imprisoned, and then chased by the police.

At the end of that ordeal, Carter kisses Jenny, completely out of the blue. She, of course, doesn’t mind, because she’s they’re both just cogs in a machine that is going to push us to the end of the film, regardless of the awkward engineering that is needed to get us there.

Wilcox was perhaps shooting for something refreshing with Hello Carter, both in its settings and its tone, but has instead ended up delivering a very messy, miscalculated film.

Hello Carter is playing in UK cinemas now and will be released on DVD on the 15th.