The Honourable Rebel review: ‘Dreadful, but appropriately bad’
16:21 09 December 2015
This biopic of Elizabeth Montagu unwittingly captures the self-absorbed delusions of aritocracy, says Michael Joyce.
The Honourable Rebel may represent a small landmark in cinema: the first example of big screen vanity publishing. I have no idea who put up the money for this film record of the life of the Honourable Elizabeth Montagu, but it feels like someone in the Montagu family has hired some of those film Johnnys to put together this bespoke heirloom.
Elizabeth Montagu lived a life that stretched to interesting, but not dramatic. She tried her hand at repairing cars, acting, spying during WWII, music, working in films and bi-sexuality, and met a lot of interesting people all of which she related in her memoir, a 600 page tome that is still in wait of its first reader review on Amazon.
The film mixes dramatic recreations with archive footage, interviews and a narration by Diana Rigg to skim through a series of, at best, mildly diverting incidents. The start of WWII raises hopes of something like excitement but her espionge is a bit of translation. Everywhere she goes, even during the war, she meets old friends who are delighted to see her and something “arranged through my connections” either resolves or organises each anecdote.
The Honourable Rebel is a dreadful film, but an appropriately bad film: it really gets its subject. Before Facebook and social media only the aristocracy could afford to be this self-obsessed and self-absorbed, and the film captures their belief that everything that happens and every thought that comes into their head is of great importance. We can all live that delusion now, but only the aristocracy can get it a cinema release. You can tell the Tories are back in power.