8 Things the Movies Get Wrong About London
It's always exciting when Hollywood decides to set a movie in London. We polish the place up a bit, say, “Oh look, there’s that restaurant where we had that dreadful sea bream!”, and, in our weaker moments, beg a junior sound man for a role as a walk-on extra. But that excitement very quickly turns to righteous anger when the movies get things wrong. And they do. Often. Here’s a rundown of the biggest mistakes that Movieland makes with our capital...
1. The Tube doesn’t work like that
It seems that, when a Hollywood director decides to set a film in London, the first thing he’ll do is grab a copy of Harry Beck’s iconic Tube map, turn it upside down, glance at it for about four or five seconds, and then put it in a Magimix. How else can we account for such woeful Tube geography? Vin Diesel gets in a Fast and Furious fight at Aldwych station before emerging in the Waterloo ticket hall. Thor, meanwhile (a character, lest we forget, who can fly), decides to take the Tube from Charing Cross to Greenwich, a 20-minute journey minimum, all because a flirty extra tells him it’s only “three stops” away. Liar.
Notable offenders: Skyfall, Thor: The Dark World, Fast & Furious 6, Sliding Doors
2. Not everyone is white and middle class
We hate to name names, but if certain filmmakers *cough* Richard Curtis *cough* are to be believed, London life is a constant whirl of dinner parties, wedding invitations, spontaneous love affairs, the South Bank, niche yet artistically fulfilling careers, vaguely embarrassing sex, verdant gardens, the South Bank, lovely furniture, scruffy yet dependable friends, artisan markets, open-plan kitchens, the South Bank, playwrights, New Labour, the Sugababes, Oxford shirts, eccentric siblings, and the South Bank. Depending on your viewpoint, it’s either a bit of harmless fun or a worryingly flat portrayal of Europe’s most diverse city.
Notable offenders: Every Richard Curtis film ever
3. Geography doesn’t work like that
Here we see Sherlock Holmes run from the sewers underneath the Houses of Parliament, ending up on top of Tower Bridge. Two and a half miles away. In two minutes. When Bridget Jones walks to work, she trundles (yes, trundles) through Piccadilly Circus before also emerging miraculously at Tower Bridge seconds later. In Sliding Doors, meanwhile, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character manages the slog from Embankment station to East London’s Trinity Wharf in under a minute. Impressive stuff. And in Bollywood hit London Dreams, little Arjun makes light work of the 20-mile run from Heathrow Airport to Shad Thames. Give up the rock & roll dream, lad: you’re a born sprinter.
Notable offenders:Sherlock Holmes, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Spice World, London Dreams, Sliding Doors
4. It’s not that picturesque…
Many tourists will come to London expecting to see nothing but a rolling utopia of bath-stone townhouses, friendly doormen, timber-framed taverns, jaunty minor royals, glistening cobbled alleyways, and daily teas at the Ritz. Many tourists will leave disappointed.
Notable offenders:Match Point, The Parent Trap, Berkeley Square, Paddington, Harry Potter
5. ... but it’s not that bleak either
Many filmmakers delight in turning London into one giant, seedy back alley, complete with a strip club and some football thugs and lots of heroin and an adulterous marriage and three dying cats and some grey rain and a terrible dentist. Don’t you remember the Olympics? The place looked lovely!
Notable offenders: Harry Brown, Closer, Football Factory, Kidulthood, Green Street, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
6. Un-real estate
Bridget Jones, a publisher’s assistant, would be taking home a modest 20,000 or so pounds a year (according to recruitment site Glassdoor), and half of that would presumably go towards Marlboro Lights and Pinot Noir. Yet, somehow, she’s the owner of a twee little apartment with period features just seconds away from the desirable Borough Market. In About Time, meanwhile, the lead character stays with Harry, a shaggy, out-of-work playwright and, inexplicably, the owner of a primetime bachelor pad on Notting Hill’s Golborne Road.
Notable offenders:Bridget Jones’s Diary, About Time, Notting Hill
7. No one talks like that
Do we all swear joyfully and zanily (“Oh my shitting aunt on an ostrich!”)? Are we all called Rufus and Tim? Do we all have little stammers and quirks? What the hell is Jeopardy and why would that be an appropriate cultural reference right now, Gwyneth?
Notable offenders:Sliding Doors, Notting Hill, About Time, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral,Love Actually
8. In fact, no one sounds like that
Apparently, there are only three accents in the capital: a cut-glass, Noel Coward pomp that even the Royal Family jettisoned decades ago; a rand-the-‘aahzes Cockney sparra’ effort that’s just crying out for a punch to the larynx in an East End pub; and the most obnoxious one of all: the middle-class, down-to-earth, rom-com lilt. It’s so wrong chiefly because the actors are so certain that they’ve got it right.
Notable offenders: Mary Poppins, Flawless, Sliding Doors, Ocean's Eleven, Bridget Jones’s Diary, One Day, Becoming Jane, The Parent Trap, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, V for Vendetta
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