Three years after their marathon, Little Dorrit, husband-and-wife producers Richard Goodwin and Christine Edzard tread the same streets to lesser effect in The Fool.
In 1857, an obscure theater clerk (Derek Jacobi) engineers a financial scam to show up the monied classes. Problems start when, posing as the carefree Sir John, he’s recognized by some theater folk, and he starts taking his alter ego too seriously.
Later scenes, with their Wall Street lingo and Jacobi’s crisis of conscience, are an obvious allegory of the me-too 1980s. But they’re a long time coming, and the thrill of the paper chase is lacking. Without a strong central yarn like Dickens’ Dorrit, pic becomes a series of one-off routines by w.k. Brit thesps.
Helmer and co-scripter Edzard shows off her research and topnotch design with street characters based on interviews by 19th- century social journalist Henry Mayhew. They’re fine on their own terms, right down to the dirt under their fingernails, but Edzard needs to make up her mind whether she’s building a museum or making a movie.