She told me about the time that you drunk so much Guinness that you shat yourself!
Year Released : 2013
Director : MJ Delaney
Cast : Sheridan Smith, Kate Nash, Jaime Winstone, Oona Chaplin and Riann Steele
In England we have these thing called pound shops, going under various guises, such as Pound Land or 99p Stores, you get the idea. Now contained within is a large variety of items, including athletic equipment, food, clothes, make up, gardening tools, pretty much everything you can imagine, and the only real problem with pound shops is that because no item costs over a pound, you know that chances are that the item you’re buying is going to be awful in terms of it’s quality.
Anyway, where I work is about a minute walk away from a pound shop and whilst browsing their DVD section before work on Thursday, I found this and the cover instantly grabbed my attention. It had one of my favourite British comediennes in Sheridan Smith and actually sounded like a reasonable plot. Another good thing about the pounds shops is that if it does turn out to be awful then at least it’s only a pound that you’ve wasted.
So I decided to make the hefty investment of a pound to buy a film that I’ve never heard of. Judging by IMDB I’m not the only person who had never heard of it either, with a dismal 430 ratings in the two years since it’s release. What concerned me even more was the low score of 4.7/10, although I was made slightly more optimistic with a review that said that if you’re British then chances are you’re going to love it.
I, as usual, write this before I watch the film and I’m not sure whether to be optimistic or not.
Sam (Smith) is going on a rare night out with her friends and whilst there she runs into her old college friends. Sam hasn’t done anything with her life but self-concious about it. She starts lying to them about what she does for a job and that she is in a strong relationship. In reality she split with her boyfriend a year ago and is having difficulty getting over it.
She starts regularly criticising her friends behind their backs and struggles to cope throughout the night.
Meanwhile, several the characters experience the highs and lows of drugs, including Paige (Steele) who is doing it for the first time due to peer-pressure. Other girls are simply trying to have sex or try to emotionally get over that they’ve turned up to a night club in fancy dress when she was actually told to dress fancy.
Yep, that’s pretty much the “plot” of the film.
So, worth the pound?
Let’s start with the positives…….
Sheridan Smith is by far the most enjoyable to watch in the film and I’m not just saying this because she is from the same county as me (Lincolnshire for the win). I’ve always enjoyed the work of Smith since I first saw her in a long-forgotten and short-lived sitcom “Dark Ages”, her brilliant long term role in “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” and various other TV shows, but this is one of her more refreshing performances as she plays the vulnerable Sam.
The character is trying to please everyone without actually revealing her own personal choices and insecurities, and the development of her character and the rapid change to being happy to tell people her opinions, such as her thoughts on Chanel’s active sex life within the club, is quite interesting to watch. You watch a character who tries the social niceties with the other characters and ends up no giving a shit with a lot of them.
Conversations feel natural and realistic for the most part, such as two characters who don’t know each other going through small talk to try and get past the awkwardness. Infact, the whole film is very realistic on so many levels. I’m not a sociable person so rarely go on nights out, and even when I do, I don’t tend to get to the toilet because being transgendered and still looking like a man, I can’t be bothered with the potential issues and discussions relating to it, but from conversations I’ve had with various female friends, one of whom I was watching the film with, it is a very realistic look into what happens in the female toilets in clubs.
My one reservation with it is that these girls seem to spend more time in the toilets than actually only the night out, and I’m not just talking about the character of Sam, who you can sort of forgive for spending most her time in there just to the confidence issue, but even the confident ones spend seemingly their entire night hanging around in the toilets. It’s not even as if they need to use the toilet on such a regular basis. Some characters are shown on the toilet on such a regular basis that it makes you wonder why they bothered going out in the first place, and it’s far more regular than any sane person would be in there.
Interesting introductions to the characters as they all appear with their name and a brief description about them in the opening credits, which is a good idea and leads you into the characters before you’ve actually properly met them. I definitely like this and is something that I have never seen before, it actually made me laugh as well with simple things such as “Can’t spell Febuary” (notice the intentional misspelling) and that actually made me chuckle somewhat.
The one issue I do have with it is that because they cover the main character so much, by the end of the opening credits you have any forgotten the names or any of the characteristics of the other characters. It’s not a major thing at all, because obviously you still have 80 or so minutes left, but if you’re going to go via this method, try not to focus too much on one character. Don’t get me wrong though, I did definitely like the technique.
I briefly revealed one of the main problems within that and that is the there are just too many characters and it’s hard to keep track of who is who. The ones that you do learn things about, other than Sam, are barely worth learning about, and the funny thing is that the character that I enjoyed the most was the toilet attendant, who barely actually talked throughout the entire film. Her entire performance is based on her facial reactions or various mannerisms, and it is a remarkable performance from Johnnie Fiori, but again therein lies a problem. When one of the most enjoyable characters is one who barely speaks then there are some issues.
None of the characters, other than Sam, are particularly engaging and there are some very odd character choices and developments. They’ve chosen an actress (Oona Chaplin) to play Jess, a French character, and yet Chaplin keeps dropping the French accent. In some scenes it is thick and very obvious, and in others the actress is just speaking with her normal voice. There’s no consistency. I’m not sure whether it’s because the character might not actually be French, but either way Oona Chaplin was diabolical in her attempts to pull of both a French accent, or even look competent whilst acting.
The film is ultimately a movie about woman, afterall there are only two men in the entire film and neither are on screen for more than a minute, so you can tell that the film-makers are trying to give women a real chance with this movie. It’s a cast dominated by largely unfamiliar women and they could have done a much better job than they did. In reality there are only two that will be familiar names to most in the UK, the aforementioned Smith and Kate Nash. Nash (below with Chaplin) had an unremarkable singing career and is so desperate to stay famous and relevant that she accepted a role in a poor film and portrayed her character with no real warmth, heart or emotion. Her lack of acting ability somehow manages to outshine her inability to maintain a singing career.
Whilst that is an issue I can forgive, one that I can’t is that the film is pretty directionless. There isn’t really much of a storyline going on. All of these characters are going around and chatting to each other, doing various things, but none of it really contributes to a plot, if indeed there is actually a plot. It just seems to be several much smaller storylines which they try to stitch together in a very feeble manner. There is a scene towards the end where all of the story arcs come together, but it isn’t like in films like Pulp Fiction, in which you find all of the effort and what you’ve been watching finally paying off. The coming together of all of the story-arcs is just not reward enough for all of the time and effort that you’ve put into watching it.
Even the scene when Sam finally sees her ex after all of the pain that she has been feeling because of their break up (what sparks all of the story arcs coming together), it doesn’t feel like a natural conclusion as her friends realise that she’s been lying to them all night. It just feels coincidental rather than done intentionally.
I’m sat writing this part of the review after the film is finished and I feel completely underwhelmed by what I have just seen. I wasn’t expecting miracles, afterall it’s barely known, but I at least expected to be entertained as being British, I knew what we are capable of in terms of comedy. This comedy gave the world Blackadder, Red Dwarf, The Office, The Brittas Empire, Men Behaving Badly, Mr Bean and many, many more brilliant comedies, and it’s such a shame that that talent seems to be untranslatable into film.
No. It’s not worth £1.
With laughs few and far between, this “comedy” lacking a plot is not made easier with characters that are largely underdeveloped. They create several dull story-arcs that loosely link together to form a much larger story, but it’s done in such a lacklustre and unsatisfying manner that I really couldn’t care less when the arcs merge.
Sheridan Smith and Johnnie Fiori are both enjoyable to watch, but other than that the film is full of lifeless, dull and bland performances from actresses that even I as a Brit had never heard of before, other than Kate Nash, a woman desperately trying to remain relevant after a forgettable career as a pop singer.
Unfortunately having a unique opening credits and one or two minor laughs don’t make up what is otherwise a pretty crap film.