The Man Who Bought Mustique

"Weak"

The Man Who Bought Mustique Review


Mustique is an island in the Caribbean, and the man who bought it was a Scottish lord named Colin Tennant, also known as Lord Glenconner. The purchase was made in the seventies, and Tennant turned Mustique into Studio 54 at sea, making it a party destination for the likes of Mick and Bianca Jagger, David Bowie, and England's Princess Margaret. The island had its heyday, then crashed, as all trendy locations and moments in time must.

The Man Who Bought Mustique focuses on the now 73-year-old Tennant's return to Mustique, years after financial troubles forced him off the luxurious island that, by all accounts, he made.

The film's advertised appeal is that Tennant is the "Basil Fawlty of the aristocracy," and that this portrait of him is "equal parts high comedy and shock theater." Unfortunately, to these American eyes, the film is neither, and Tennant is just petty and unfunny -- too faulty to be Fawlty.

As we follow Tennant back to the island, his personality flaws become quickly apparent. Simply put, the man is a belligerent snob whose entire self-worth these days is based around his long-time friendship with Princess Margaret (for whom his wife is a lady-in-waiting). After years of hosting the party, that one friendship seems the last remaining vestige of his years of glamour.

Back on Mustique, an island whose current residents give halting lip service to their respect for Tennant but clearly regard him with disdain, Tennant prepares for a lunch visit from the Princess. Island residents construct a tent for the occasion, Tennant bossing them around at every opportunity. Eye rolling seems the day's primary activity. Tennant even tries to control the filmmakers, viciously arguing with them, and even walking out of the picture, when a shot cannot be re-staged to his approval.

Part of the problem with The Man Who Bought Mustique is that Tennant comes off as a silly, petty, and pathetic man, and his watchability therefore fades quickly. He spends most of the film flailing desperately to take control of a world he is no longer part of. When he haltingly remarks that the island's current residents are "a lot of dot-com millionaires," it's clear how out of touch he is, and you feel for him. But then minutes later he's throwing yet another hissy fit, and he becomes the old man down the block who rants at how the neighborhood has changed as passersby smile weakly and quickly walk away.

Tennant's friendship with the Princess is also a source of pity. They clearly have a long history, yet Tennant is worried so hard about impressions. Tennant is very protective of the Princess, and you sense that theirs is a bizarre and complex relationship, but we never learn how it got there. When we eventually see them together, it's hard to believe they were ever friends, her tense facial expressions indicating tolerance rather than amusement with Tennant. As such, all his posturing comes off as vapid, worthless celebrity worship. If anything, the Princess and Tennant seem like people who have known each other too long, and might just be done with each other.

The real problem with The Man Who Bought Mustique was its decision to tell the story of Tennant now, after his sheen has faded, for his current story simply isn't that interesting. He's portrayed as a former mover and shaker, and we are shown clips from a seventies TV show of Tennant in his heyday, partying like a man who knows the best years are either here or ahead. How did that man come to be? How did he get to where he is now? How did that transition occur?

Now, he seems like a guy unworthy of the celebrity or attention the film bestows on him. In these days of Access Hollywood and Entertainment Weekly and Behind The Music, a time where everyone is a mere six degrees or less from everyone else and everyone you know knows someone who met someone who is someone, why should we care about a man who knew Mick Jagger twenty years ago, and is friends with Princess Margaret, a woman no American could care less about, today?

Throughout Mustique, we are given snippets of stories that might have been more interesting than the one told. In particular, Tennant's wife tells of how one of their sons contracted HIV, another got sick of another disease which is never identified, and a third had a horrible accident, all around the same time. The first two sons died, and the third, who we see, is clearly physically and mentally disabled. But what exactly happened? And, more important to the story, what impact did this have on Tennant becoming the man he is today? All interesting questions, none of which are answered or even broached in this film.

After his lunch with Princess Margaret, Tennant says to the camera, "Well, that's over. What a lot of fuss about..." and then fails to finish the sentence. So I'll do it for him.

"...nothing."

Aka The Guy Who Bought Mustique.



The Man Who Bought Mustique

Facts and Figures

Run time: 78 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 9th May 2001

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Fresh: 3 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Joseph Bullman

Producer:

Contactmusic


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