Hello Ladies: The Movie – Review

Stephen Merchant - Hello Ladies

If you’ve never caught Steve’s Hello Ladies series the premise is quite simple – Steve plays Stuart, a British web-designer living in Los Angeles, a character based on the unlucky-in-love persona that Steve has used throughout radio shows, podcasts, interviews and his ‘Hello Ladies’ stand-up tour over the last 15 years.

His housemate Jessica is a struggling actress, not dissimilar to Maggie in Extras, (in fact she looks exactly like the type of actress that would be cast in an American remake of Extras) who is also one of Stuart’s closest friends. His other friend is a chubby would-be-divorcee even schlubbier than himself. Stuart constantly finds himself in cringeworthy situations as he tries his best to chat up the beautiful and glamorous residents of LA. If all this sounds familiar – it’s because it is, Steve doesn’t break too much new ground with Hello Ladies and although the show is well produced it lacks that originality or unique charm. The performances are good, the plots often pretty hokey and emotion quite mundane. The show was not renewed for a second series by HBO and concludes with this feature length finale.

We saw Tim and Dawn finally get together in December 2003, while David told Finchy to fuck off. We saw Andy shun his C-list celebrity life in favour of friendship in Extras and Warwick see the error his ways in Life’s Too Short. This year we have two specials – Derek is set to end at Christmas, but first it’s goodbye to Hello Ladies.

The action kicks off with Jessica’s 30th birthday party and a call from Stuart’s ex-girlfriend Trudy who tells him she’s coming to Los Angeles. A disastrous audition inspires Jessica to begin the search for a new life as Stuart is desperately looking for a girl to help him convince Trudy and her husband that he is happy and successful in his new life. After a brief and very funny rewind through young Stuart’s past social disasters – the story progresses with the typical Hello Ladies blend of cringe comedy and witty dialogue – some of which is great. There’s a surprise cameo from a bona fide A-lister, I won’t spoil it here but it provides some solid laughs. From there they will-they won’t they relationship between Jessica and Stuart takes centre stage and the show tones down the comedy for a bit more of a dramatic feel.

Stephen Merchant - Hello Ladies

It’s a fitting finale for the show, it’s lighter on cringe and there’s a lot of funny moments, while still staying true to the overall tone of the first season. It gets quite dramatic at points and although it’s well done it’s a bit of a shift from the slapstick and slightly cartoonish characters that pop up. It looks great, the music choices are great and there are some moments which seem, if not actually are, improvised that are a lot more natural than some of the other scenes in the show, that can feel quite forced. On a couple of occasions when Stuart makes Jessica laugh you feel like you’re seeing real chemistry rather than a contrived relationship.

Steve is at his best when he’s being animated, making use of the lankiness, goggle eyes and John Cleese-esque precariousness of his physical acting. For a lot of this episode Steve is quite reserved and controlled, which is a shame as it hides his strengths, but was also necessary for the conclusion he wanted to tell. It’s possibly why Steve isn’t best suited to being the leading man.

Stephen Merchant - Hello Ladies

“My conscience doesn’t take a day off just because I’ve got an erection.” – Stuart

If you’ve enjoyed the series at all, you’ll enjoy this finale, it hits some of the highs of the first eight episodes without the lows. If you weren’t particularly bothered about the show before, this probably won’t change your mind. With Ricky revisiting The Office for David Brent the movie, I really hope Steve takes a risk with whatever his next project is – he’s got the talent to deliver something that’s both enjoyable and original.

Posted in: Hello Ladies, Steve, TV

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