By Clark Collis
Updated January 23, 2015 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Like the recent Nick Hornby-penned movie Wild, this new novel from the About a Boy author concerns a woman on a partly metaphysical and partly actual journey. But that’s where the obvious points of comparison pretty much end. Essentially a love letter to the British sitcoms of the 57-year-old writer’s youth, Funny Girl details the adventures—although maybe that is too strong a word—of Barbara Parker, a recently crowned beauty queen from the city of Blackpool who travels to London in the hope of becoming the U.K. version of Lucille Ball. This she achieves with remarkable ease as the star of a hugely successful show called Barbara (and Jim). Propelled to celebrity status, our heroine becomes something of a swinging-’60s Zelig, meeting British prime minister Harold Wilson, Yardbirds singer Keith Relf, and even Ball herself. Hornby’s fictionalized evocation of the era is spot-on—the idea that Relf’s fellow Yardbird Jimmy Page would be recruited to record the theme tune for Barbara (and Jim) is a particularly verisimilitudinous touch, in light of the future Led Zep guitar hero’s near-omnipresence as a session musician at the time. Comedy-loving Anglophiles will have a field day here, as Hornby pours a warm bath of references to Brit comedians and shows, from tortured genius Tony Hancock to Till Death Us Do Part, the inspiration for All in the Family. The folks responsible for Barbara (and Jim) are engaging company too, and the relationship between the sitcom’s two writers—one gay, the other more sexually ambivalent—offers some nice behind-the-scenes tension. But there is a general lack of drama in the proceedings that is less disappointing than bewildering, given the possibilities of the setting. Wild? More like agreeably mild. B

”You could get away with anything, it seemed, if you were on the telly.”

Funny Girl

  • Movie
  • G
  • 151 minutes
  • William Wyler