Starstruck: A giddy confection that helps rehabilitate the romcom

TV review: Rose Matafeo’s new show is Notting Hill for Generation Instagram

Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck. Photograph:  Mark Johnson/Avalon UK/BBC

Nikesh Patel and Rose Matafeo in Starstruck. Photograph: Mark Johnson/Avalon UK/BBC

 

For proof that everything comes back into fashion eventually, look no further than the rehabilitation of the romcom. Once regarded as a soppy hellscape presided over by Richard Curtis and a pre-True Detective Matthew McConaughey, the genre is today on the up-and-up. That’s thanks to feelgood Netflix confections such as To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and to Palm Springs, aka Groundhog Day for millennials.

And thanks also, potentially, to Starstruck (BBC One, Monday, 10.45pm), the New Zealand stand-up Rose Matafeo’s tilt at the milieu. Quirky and quippy, it’s essentially Curtis’s Notting Hill reimagined for Generation Instagram – or Normal People with warmth and wit replacing Marxism for Beginners.

Your enjoyment of Starstruck will depend entirely on how far you buy into Matafeo's brand of chatty, physical humour

Matafeo plays Jessie, a carefree young thing trying to suppress the voice in her head telling her she’s growing less carefree and young by the day. In a picture-postcard London – no crime, no homelessness, no unaffordable rents – her life is a series of exciting casual hook-ups punctuated by droll exchanges with her flatmate, Kate (Emma Sidi, Matafeo’s best pal in real life).

But then she goes and spoils it all by accidentally sleeping with a global movie star, Tom (Nikesh Patel). To clarify, the sleeping-with bit is on purpose. However, she has no inkling he’s a global movie star until the following morning, when she notices a huge film poster in his kitchen with his face plastered all over it.

Matafeo is a bundle of enthusiasm, and your enjoyment of Starstruck will depend entirely on how far you buy into her brand of chatty, physical humour. Her performance is larger than life and veers occasionally towards the broad and winking. But she brings an infectious giddiness, and, regardless of whether the gags soar or flop, Starstruck’s heart is always in the right place.

Starstruck falls down slightly by comparison, in that it doesn’t have Ronan Keating singing the theme tune

That’s probably as well, because as a portrait of millennial life it doesn’t hold up. Jessie and Kate work dead-end jobs yet can afford a vast flat in gentrified London. And Tom is stonkingly implausible as a movie star (though Minnie Driver excels as his agent). He doesn’t seem to have an ego and isn’t even particularly charming. Tom also hates being famous, which doesn’t really much seem like a movie star’s outlook. And it’s a stretch, surely, to suggest that Jessie, who works in a cinema, would not recognise him.

But then Notting Hill’s romance between Hugh Grant’s bumbling bookstore owner and Julia Roberts’s glamorous A-lister was entirely unconvincing too – yet that film reigns supreme as romcom royalty. Starstruck falls down slightly by comparison, in that it doesn’t have Ronan Keating singing the theme tune. Yet it somehow overcomes this huge hurdle and adds fuel to the argument that the romcom, if not quite back for good, is certainly enjoying a moment in the sun.

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