Saturday, December 31, 2011

Short Take: Georgy Girl

This review was originally published on Pol Culture.

The British romantic farce Georgy Girl was a critical and commercial hit back in 1966. In general, it has not dated well. The picture appropriates the hallmarks of the French nouvelle vague films of Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut, but without making those elements feel intrinsic to the material. The filmmakers seem to be working their way through a checklist. The happy-go-lucky young protagonists, the extensive use of urban locations, the handheld camerawork, the naturalistic lighting and sets, the gritty social detail--they’re all there, and the picture’s dubious distinction is that it makes one appreciate the French films even more. The director, Silvio Narizzano (he’s Canadian), and the screenwriters, Margaret Forster and Peter Nichols, have a sitcom sensibility. The effect of mating that with the existential aesthetic of their French contemporaries is ludicrous. A slightly chubby Lynn Redgrave plays the title character, a young working-class woman who feels inadequate next to her beautiful roommate (Charlotte Rampling). She spends much of her time dodging the amorous interest of her parents’ employer (James Mason). Complicating things further is her growing attraction to her roommate’s boyfriend, a hyperactive goofball played by Alan Bates. The actors leave one feeling the broad contrivance and humor are beneath their talents, but the only one who transcends the silliness is Charlotte Rampling. She walks away with nearly every scene she’s in. Her bitchy hauteur dries out the material, and she turns almost every line into a zinger. She’s the only member of the cast who is consistently laugh-out-loud funny. The great mystery of the film’s commercial success is that it didn’t make her a star. Ken Higgins’ Oscar-nominated cinematography is an accomplished approximation of Raoul Coutard and Henri Decaë’s work in the film’s French forebears. The cheesy though memorable theme song is performed by The Seekers.

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