Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mike Leigh - Career Girls (1997)

With "Career Girls," Mike Leigh almost reaches the sheer greatness of his 1995 picture "Secrets & Lies," with yet another thought provoking study of modern British life. Ignore the sneers and criticisms that some critics felt the film deserved on its release:- They either weren't paying enough attention, or simply didn't understand what was going on. Although it's true that "Career Girls" lacks the more conventional plotting of his earlier film, Leigh is able to make up for it in this film's character studies and wonderfully observational dialogue. The 'Story' is relativly simple; the film charts the ups and downs of two London polytechnic students, Hannah and Annie, during the mid to late 1980's, interweaving their day to day lives in with their lives today, seven years later in the 1990's, when they decide to meet up again for the weekend in London. During the forty eight hours they spend together, a series of coincidences reconcile them with faces from their student lives, digging up a mixture of bad and good memories all over again. Doesn't sound interesting? Well, actually, it's a marvellous film. Amongst the dozens of observations Leigh makes in the movie's 90 minute running time is the way that, although many years have past since our protagonists have been together, the difficult and often painful relationship between them is still very much alive and kicking. It even creates parallels between events that occurred years ago to events that occur during the weekend over which much of the movie is set, suggesting all the more that perhaps people and relationships can never truly change, and that time isn't such a healer after all. The performances are nearly always excellent, with the two leads giving it all they've got in semi-spontaneous roles. Leigh's direction always keeps the viewer entertained and involved, and his usage of gorgeous colour to represent the change in eras is perfect; the usage of a blue tint for the 1980's scenes is a stroke of genius, and adds a suitably cold and harsh tone to the sequences. There's also plenty of humour in there too, including a wonderful series of scenes where our two girls pay a visit to a most peculiar apartment owner on the London Docklands. "Career Girls" is another absolute, utterly rewatchable gem from Mike Leigh, and, following on from such classics as "Naked," and, indeed, "Secrets and Lies," the only assumption I can make about the Stafford-born filmmaker is that if he isn't a true genius, he must be on the verge of being one!

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