Just as they decide to separate, Linda and Paxton find life has other plans when they are stuck at home in a mandatory lockdown.
It may have more holes than my bubbling sourdough starter, but I enjoyed Locked Down a lot more than I enjoyed lockdown, the claustrophobia-induced frenzy of Doug Liman’s film all too recognisable.
There’s nothing disruptive about it – it’s like seeing your favourite mainstream comic feed your life back to you. High-flying Linda pairing a pink blouse with a red jacket on a Zoom call is as out-there as it gets, and it has a random, raggedy feel to it, the flailing of the characters sometimes spreading to its direction.
In fact so well do we know this situation that my usual post-movie googling was limited to tracking down the wealthy Linda’s fungi-decorated satin pyjamas (and I can claim victory! Here they are, a snip at £420!)
Let’s start at the end, as this pandemic diamond heist movie is one of the few lockdown-related events where we can actually see how it ends. That in itself is reassuring, an anchor in the storm.
The denouement is clunky as hell, though there’s also something very believable about it. One previously straight-laced character talks with a glint in his eye of chaos and anarchy, of ordinary people pitted against the big guys, something that will resonate as we find out more and more about how much they have profited from this appalling worldwide disaster. (By which I mean the pandemic, not Locked Down, which, I shall reiterate, I very much enjoyed.)
Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor, as married couple Linda and Paxton, have the sort of chemistry that divorcing couples who bore each other everywhere but the bedroom tend to have. Sometimes their lines become too obvious even for this odd film borne of an odd year, but mostly they’re madly watchable, everything they know cracking at the seams.
Linda is a London-based high-flying executive for an American company, and her relationship with Paxton was already doomed even before the UK’s first lockdown. Problems previously kicked to one side are inescapable when they’re involuntarily confined to their house together.
Although Linda has her job, he has been furloughed and only has video calls with his half-brother David (Dulé Hill) in New York to remind him of life outside. Even David and his wife Maria (Jazmyn Simon), confined to a city that is suffering horrifically from COVID-19, pity poor Paxton.
Paxton cannot escape his feelings of a life wasted, a youthful criminal record preventing him moving up from his delivery driver job for a decade. Linda misses people and teams (not TEAMS!) and wistfully thinks back to her happiest days, when she worked for Harrods.
Their working lives collide when Paxton is told by his boss that he has to spend a day moving out luxury goods from Harrods. A criminal past means he needs a false name to work, but afterwards he will be promoted to customer services, the first step up he’s been offered in years.
Linda has to be at Harrods on the same day to pack up the luxury event she’d curated before the store’s closure, and agrees to use her knowledge to help him get past the security systems – though in a classic case of scope creep (oh Linda!) soon she’s thinking about stealing the £3 million Harris diamond, the centrepiece of her event.
This is an unevenly plotted tale, but Linda and Paxton’s hairbrained plan is also the kind of daft idea with a sparkle of brilliance that anyone of us could come up with, if our lockdown bubble is missing the calmer brains who would normally laugh us into silence.
It’s worth £3 million, more even than a black market Andrex multipack, and mid-robbery the two of them pause to collect their thoughts and make decisions, unable to work out if they are geniuses or soon-to-be prison inmates. A lot of Locked Down‘s weirdness can indeed be put down to the state we’re in, as can its insularity and its hanging threads (the theft itself, though positioned by Linda as closure to their relationship, is as much about reconnection).
Locked Down gets a lot right about the UK experience last spring. The Zoom calls are funny because they are familiar, though with a twist; one poor colleague of Linda’s is interrupted by his cute toddler son, and is then fired, though not because of the child (that would be very 2019).
Loo roll hoarders, flour and wine all get a mention. Neighbours who have never previously interacted find themselves helping each other out in very unexpected ways. Banging her pans in the front garden to “honour” the NHS, Linda’s wide-eyed desperation is matched only by the ferocity of her crashing and bashing.
Apart from a drugged-up hedgehog residing in their garden, Linda and Paxton are pet-free and childfree. It’s a wise decision by the filmmakers as there’s no need to show them attempting home schooling. No one wants to witness such despair when trying to lose themselves in a pandemic movie, and a heist might well be easier to pull off than getting an 8 year old off Roblox to do some actual work.
Every lockdown “type” is present on those Zoom calls, thanks to a series of enjoyable and starry one-off cameos. Ben Stiller is Linda’s immediate boss, holed up in beautiful, rural Vermont with his bored teenagers. Mindy Kaling pops up as one of her US colleagues. Claes Bang is her company’s morality-free founder, describing the private buyer he’s found for the diamond as “a very unpleasant member of a very unpleasant family who run a very unpleasant country in a very unpleasant way”.
Locked Down was filmed in Harrods last autumn (it seems to have gone from casting to screen in less time than it took me to relearn fractions for my son’s Year 3 maths), and the store presumably has to be seen in a good light, security issues notwithstanding. As Paxton and Linda stalk the food hall collecting expensive delicacies, we are even treated to a sort of product un-placement – with Linda very obviously commenting that everything left is to be given to a food bank.
Note: there is a mid-credits scene, though I doubt it will teach you anything you don’t already know after 10 long months.
Read my (very spoilery) article Locked Down ending: from hedgies & homebaking to the Harris diamond, what happened?
Locked Down is on HBO Max from 14 January, and is available to rent in the UK from 11 March. Watch the trailer below.