Bank Of Dave
When successful Burnley minibus salesman Dave Fishwick (Rory Kinnear) seeks to turn his side-business of person-to-person loans into a fully-fledged bank, he hires the legal advice and support of disillusioned Hugh (Joel Fry). Hugh is sceptical of the entire scheme, knowing full well that Britain’s banking infrastructure, exemplified by elitist Sir Charles Denbigh (Hugh Bonneville), is unlikely to tolerate such an application, but finds his mind slowly turned by the evidence of Dave’s connection to his community and by the work of his niece Alexandra (Phoebe Dynevor).
Two things struck me about Bank Of Dave. The first is that Rory Kinnear is pretty good at this acting thing, isn’t he? I mean most people probably only know him for his pretty much bit part in the Craig-era Bond films, but this is a guy who has been doing great things in lesser films roles and in greater stage ones for a long time now. Even in the minutia, like in his role as the villain in the under-watched and under-rated iBoy, he was great. Only recently, thanks to the interesting but dividing Men, has Kinnear seemingly been able to stake a claim as a natural leading man, and Bank Of Dave, a biopic whose titular character has a very specific accent and a delicate tightrope to walk regards his personality and interactions with people, is a great role on paper. And Kinnear plays it very well, just about managing to make Dave seem believably likable, as opposed to a ridiculous quasi-saint like he could so easily have been. This is a proper “salt of the earth” performance, and is another reason why Kinnear is worthy of greater attention than his already lengthy career has gotten him.
But the other thing that struck me about the Bank Of Dave sort of undercuts all that: biopics are hard, aren’t they? Take this one: there didn’t really appear to be enough material in Dave Fishwick’s life and story to make a 90 minute film all on its own, since Dave himself is actually something of a secondary character in his own story. Instead director Chris Foggin, whose utterances on the film use the term “feelgood” so much that the term begins to lose all meaning, opts to make a mostly fictional character, Dave’s solicitor Hugh, the main character, complete with a romantic sub-plot with Dave’s niece. Bank Of Dave really is Hugh’s narrative, a somewhat sickly sweet story of Hugh learning to appreciate things again, and to learning that there is human decency outside the realms of banking and law. Fry does what he can, and Dynevor is decent, but there is only so much that they can do with this kind of material. I suspect that A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, where a biopic of Fred Rodgers was largely overshadowed by a fiction involving the man sent to profile him, was an inspiration here. That and there are plenty of other fictionalised elements, up to and including an appearance from Def Lepperd of all people.
So Bank Of Dave has its immediate good sides and bad sides. Rory Kinnear is good, but the sense that you are watching a lackadaisical rom-com that has been stapled onto someone else’s biopic is not so good. The film’s general commentary on the unfairness of the British banking system is good, but the cartoonish depiction of the people behind that banking system – including Bonneville, who is only missing a moustache to twirl – is not so good. The way that the film attempts to craft a really engaging picture of the Burnley community and how this small-scale support group can work effectively is good, but for a long-time city-boy I could do with less “people in the big city are all miserable until they migrate to the countryside” type narratives, that appeal to lazy tropes (I’m not sure that anyone ever says the word “London” with anything other than manifest scorn in the whole running time).
In the end Bank Of Dave strikes me as the kind of film liable to vanish into the ether pretty quickly, so nothing I have to say about it is liable to stick all that much. It’s a perfectly watchable 90 minute depiction of an interesting man who did an interesting thing, but the film’s lack of confidence in that story, in basically making over half of its running time about something else entirely, is palpable. And if the film doesn’t have any faith that we will follow along with the story of Dave Fishwick and his bank, then why should we exactly? Not recommended.
(All images are copyright of Netflix).