Claire Foy is wasted in a very limp “Scandal”.

Claire Foy

A few years ago the production company Blueprint Pictures made the superb “A Very English Scandal”. A dramatisation of the 1976-1979 Jeremy Thorpe affair it was written by Russell T Davies (from the book by John Preston) and directed by Stephen Frears. With a never-better Hugh Grant as Thorpe, Ben Whishaw as his ex-lover Norman Josiffe/Norman Scott and a supporting cast just transported down from Heaven (Alex Jennings, Monica Dolan and Adrian Scarborough were but three of the standouts), it was the distillation of great television. Now, Blueprint are back. This time with “A Very British Scandal” and it’s a very different beast. Actually, it’s almost the polar opposite. Not an abject failure but a failure nonetheless.

A Very British Scandal

A Very Different Beast

Claire Foy is Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll and Paul Bettany is Ian Campbell the 11th Duke of Argyll. The film is about the media frenzy surrounding their 1963 divorce and the 15 years leading up to the event. It was the first time that British tabloid press were given free access to the dalliances of the British Upper Class and the first time that a woman of high social standing was destroyed because of her sexual proclivities.

A Very British Scandal

Margaret Remains an Enigma

Unfortunately, the script by Sarah Phelps never comes to grips with its subject or it’s characters and Anne Sewitsky direction is equally weak. We never really get to know Foy’s Margaret and we are at a loss as to why she stayed with Bettany’s duke, a man who verbally and physically abused her from almost the day they were married. We may feel some pity for Margaret at the end but despite Foy’s best efforts, she remains an enigma.

A Very British Scandal

Condescending Filmmaking of the Worst Kind.

Other things also irritated this viewer. The Duke has two little boys from a previous marriage. They figure prominently in the story. Margaret had two daughters from a previous marriage and they were around the same age. We neither hear of them or see them. It’s like they didn’t exist. This is careless, condescending filmmaking of the worst kind. Pitiful.

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