Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Career Girls" (1997) - Movie Review

It takes enormous time for a film maker to give a character to its completeness in the required slot of time. In Mike Leigh’s “Career Girls”, we get to know two women who were room mates six years earlier in their college days and we can deduce their reactions and suppressed feelings within this hour and half film. They are Annie (Lynda Steadman) and Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge). In the college years Annie replied for a wanted room mate ad and meets a vocal, loud and strong Hannah. She is already living with a room mate Claire (Kate Byers). Look at how they play a game around Claire to get rid of her as time goes by. If any of you do not go chuckle at those times of little machinations around room mates and friends, you would be lying to yourself.

The film goes back and forth between the present day were Annie is visiting Hannah in London and their days of living together as students. Both have grown up to be a much neat looking women. In their dingy apartment, they do not care about how they maintain their room or how they dress up. Now they look for views in the house and appreciate the neatness of the home. Annie who used to be insecure, low self confidence and never meeting eyes with anyone and jittering with an asthma allergy and a skin condition over her face is now more confident and has control over what she wants to say. Hannah has toned down her loudness while retains the metal gear of toughness and bold face under all the situations. She looks men low and beats every one of their encounters with putting them down with her jokes.

While “Career Girls” never achieves its height as Leigh’s other films does especially with too much coincidence creeping up and pulling off something unusual, it is a look on the pale life of regular person. Stable job, decent living and the quest for right partner never settling in makes it not a miserable but bland style of living. Both have changed a lot from the college with the core qualities remaining the same. Hannah is still tough while Annie is still naive. But both are in the scenario to acknowledge it and live with it.

Hannah and Annie initially reserve themselves. Quibbles of petty things bother them. Both feel the waters of each other’s current characteristics. They meet a new person after so many years. A long forgotten friend is a stranger with the swallowed time. But not so much when the gates are open and the guard is released to get into the swings of rhythms which kept them together during their golden days.

Annie and Hannah are strange combination. Both are different in their experiences and behaviour but they sensed that from each other which began their friend ship. In their short time, Hannah decides to look for a flat to buy and begins a surreal experience but mainly long last people they knew in college years cropping up in a single day. One such is Adrian (Joe Tucker), a smart player who sleeps with Hannah but gains the love of Annie only to stomp on it. He is now a clean and neatly attired estate agent. Then is Ricky (Mark Benton) a chubby and clumsy person who rarely opens his eyes while talking. He likes Annie but Annie thinks she deserves better looking men than Ricky. They meet him now which is shady region in the film but tells more about the regret and guilt we would never able to give up for the mistakes done in those maturing times of youth.

It is a film which would see ourself visiting the friends we hated as room mates but still loved them having around. Or may be we really all had nice times. Whatever the relation would have been, time wipes away the ego and mostly with no one to see after in that situation, it is an insight into the person we once were. It is bitter sweet. Sighs, laughs, nostalgia and everything. Everything that would rekindle the times best and worst.

Leigh extracts the best of all the actors and pulls off comedy in unseen circumstances. It does not have a plot to follow nor there is a change in the characters at the end of the film. Both identify each other as the person they were in many aspects. They begin to wonder all it takes is a couple of days talk and weird coincidences to see their friendship. “Career Girls” may not be the best of Mike Leigh but certainly is a very good film to visit up the old buddies of us in a nice flat with same capability to irritate and humour us.

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