Piccadilly Jim (2005) is the third filmed adaptation of the P. G. Wodehouse novel of the same name (1917). I’ve read some scathing reviews, berating everything from the scattered costuming (though I found some of the outfits hysterical and the hairstyles even more so, approaching those in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil) to the change in the main character’s motivation and contrition. I can understand all of that. Yet I still found this movie extremely entertaining.
The reason I wanted to see this film is because it stars one of my favorite quirky actors, Sam Rockwell. But the movie is very hard to find. I finally caught it on cable on demand. Since I was mainly watching it for the cast, which is a wonderful mix of excellent British and American stars, I was not as critical as some reviewers of the faithfulness of adaptation. But I can understand the chagrin of Wodehouse fans; it’s terrible as far as story adaptation (should basically be labeled “loosely based on”) and pretty muddled as far as the historical period in which it supposedly takes place. That being said, it’s a silly and fun farce, like The Importance of Being Earnest meets Bullets over Broadway, with odd characters, ridiculous situations, and melodramatic scenes.
In addition to Rockwell’s endearing expressions and splendid physical comedy, the rest of the cast is captivating to watch. Tom Wilkinson and Allison Janney shine as Jim’s mismatched father and stepmother, as does Brenda Blethyn as his disapproving aunt. Rupert Simonian is supremely devilish as the spoiled Ogden. and Hugh Bonneville is dastardly as the German spy. I found Frances O’Connor a bit tepid as the adventure-seeking, Jim-hating ingenue, but that may be more the due to how confused the character is than to O’Connor’s portrayal. In any case, it was a hoot watching them all interact.
Though it’s far from being a masterpiece, I found this movie distracting entertainment for a lazy weekend. I’m glad I finally had the chance to see it.