Hot Property clearly wants to be a screwball comedy about the vapid, materialistic members of London’s corporate world. Even if it knows precious little about them. Protagonist Melody (MyAnna Buring) is a ruthless corporate spy concerned only with keeping her central London flat. Her nemesis, Laurie (Kate Bracken), is a rising online journalist working for Melody’s ever inconstant sister-in-law Saskia. Melody is aided by her hapless brother (Sam Phillips), an officer worker now occupying her parents’ home, and boyfriend Harmony, an oversexed chef forever trying to start a pop-up business.
Director Max McGill, here making his debut feature, makes the right choice tonally, leaning fully into the absurdity of these overprivileged caricatures. It’s just that the writing fails to capitalise on them on a consistent basis. Melody’s object fetishism and Laurie’s millennial obliviousness are suitably cartoonish examples that barely get any showcasing. Consequently, their rivalry, introduced clumsily after the fact, never gets that chance to develop into believable conflict. Which feels like genuine misfire given the considerable talents of both actresses.
If nothing else the cast is clearly game, even if most of them are lumped with underwritten or obnoxiously one-dimensional characters. Saskia seems to change her comic hook in every single scene; from earnestly trying too hard to aloofly superior to eventually just horny. The rest simply land somewhere between dull and insufferable. With Tom Rhys Harries as Harmony being the main offender in the latter.
The laughs are few and far between but those that land, do so with directorial flair. If nothing else McGill certainly knows how to shoot a joke. Sharp, well-timed cuts emphasise every good punchline. Unlike most mainstream comedies there are even nice touches of visual humour. A sarcastic cashpoint somehow manages to put most of the cast to shame. However, the script just can’t effectively turn these ostentatious cartoons into characters you can engage with. It’s the kind of thing the likes of Tina Fey and Adam McKay have made careers out of. McGill and co-writer Andrew Cryan on the other hand just aren’t there yet.
Jokes aside, it’s also a disappointingly structured script. Taking way too long to reach the central narrative of Melody trying to protect her flat from being rented or sold. Needless subplots involving job interviews or a cancelled trip to Burning Man clutter the first act with eye-rolling tedium. Her schemes are suitably overblown but quickly come to strain believability. Then again, this is a story in which a web-journalist has the cash to purchase a Central London flat, so believability’s never exactly high.
It’s that fine line between comic absurdity and relatable circumstance that Hot Property just can’t walk. The talent is clearly there in the cast, but then so is the inexperience of its writer and director. A more rigorous editing process could have turned this script into a real gut-buster of a comedy.