wed 18/07/2018

Dough review - well-intentioned bread-based comedy doesn't rise | reviews, news & interviews

Dough review - well-intentioned bread-based comedy doesn't rise

Dough review - well-intentioned bread-based comedy doesn't rise

Disappointing comedy-thriller about marijuana-laced baked goods

Breaking bread: Jonathan Pryce as baker Nat Dayan

Oh dear, writing this review is a bit like being mean to a small cuddly animal. Dough has such very good intentions – characters separated by race, religion and age can find common ground in a bakery – it’s a shame that it doesn’t rise into a tasty loaf but instead remains just a bit wholemeal and stolid.   

The excellent Jonathan Pryce plays Nat Dayan, an orthodox Jewish widower whose sole reason to get up every morning at four is to work in his beloved shop. He inherited it from his father and still bakes traditional bagels, pastries and challah bread. But the neighbourhood’s changing, customers are dwindling and his assistant has quit to work in the rival supermarket next door. Nat’s son has gone up in the world and is a lawyer; he isn’t interested in taking over the business and wants his dad to retire. Joanne Silberman (Pauline Collins) plays a frisky widow who owns the freehold, and she’s keen to sell the building to an evil developer (Phil Davis, practically twirling a villain’s moustache). Nat is stubbornly holding on to tradition, but needs help.

Meanwhile in a parallel narrative (it’s literally cross-cut) we meet Ayyash (Jerome Holder, pictured below with Pauline Collins and Jonathan Pryce), a young refugee from Darfur. He’s trying to get a job with the local drug baron (played by Ian Hart, sporting a shaved head); he’ll take Ayyash on as a dealer if he’s got a cover job. Working at the bakery as Nat’s apprentice provides Ayyash with the perfect front. Soon he is selling bags of weed alongside the muffins to those customers in the know and business turns around for all concerned.Pauline Collins, Jerome Holder and Jonathan Pryce in DoughNat doesn’t know about the sideline sales, and becomes fond of the young man, impressed by his baking skills and touched by his piety – Ayyash doesn’t get high on his own supply and is a devout Muslim. In another cross-cut sequence we see both men performing their particular ritual prayers in separate areas of the bakery. It’s all very well-meaning, hands-across-the-divide stuff with plenty of gags about Jewish and Muslim preconceptions about each other, but it pulls its punches. It would have been braver to have had Ayyash come from the Middle East rather than Africa.

Dough aims for the comedy-caper genre, with gags around cultural and generational misunderstandings and shenanigans with the police and local criminals, but it relies on bland stereotypes and despite the best efforts of its actors, they cannot rise above a clichéd and implausible script by first time writers Jonathan Benson and Jez Freedman. After Ayyash accidentally adds a bag of weed to the challah dough, no-one notices the resulting loaves taste and smell different, but all just enjoy the giggles and crave more – no matter how orthodox they are. Soon he’s dumping bags of grass into brownies and other sweet treats and there are queues around the block and smiles all round. Sadly, a cursory browse of the many online recipes for cooking with marijuana would have disabused the writers of the efficacy of this method (there are some delightful how-to videos out there).

It’s not just problems with the script; there’s a flatness to the lighting of the interior scenes which make them look like cheap TV, and an absence of a sense of place with few exterior scenes. Dough is a Hungarian-British co-production and, judging by the credits, a lot of it was shot in a studio in Budapest with a few location scenes in the UK, and it shows. This is veteran TV drama and documentary director John Goldschmidt's first film in many years (his credits include helming Jack Rosenthal’s wonderful Spend Spend Spend in 1977) and it’s waited two years to get a cinema release in the UK after doing reasonable business in the USA. It would be lovely to acclaim it as a lost gem, but unfortunately that’s not the case.


Overleaf: watch the official trailer for Dough

A cursory browse of the many online recipes for cooking with marijuana would have disabused the writers


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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