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CAREER GIRLS (director/writer: Mike Leigh; cinematographer: Dick Pope; editor: Robin Sales; music: Marianne Jean-Baptiste and Tony Remy; cast: Katrin Cartlidge (Hannah), Lynda Steadman (Annie), Joe Tucker (Adrian), Mark Benton (Ricky), Andy Serkis (Mr. Evans); Runtime: 87; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Simon Channing-Williams; October Films; 1997-UK)
“It manages to be uninteresting, slight and bleak, while desperately trying to find something to say about the human condition.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mike Leigh’s (“Secrets and Lies”/”Naked”) unpredictable urban comedy is about two flatmates, the sweetly neurotic Annie (Lynda Steadman) and the caustic overly aggressive Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge), who studied at the North London Polytechnic and awkwardly reunite in London for a weekend visit as successful career women six years later to recall that troublesome time period of being druggies, being fanatical about the Cure, calling themselves “the Bronte sisters” and being social outcasts. The film relies on hard to watch flashbacks from the past when Annie was made vulnerable by a facial skin disease (altered now by plastic surgery) and Hannah seemed like she was rehearsing for a St. Vitus dance marathon, as she couldn’t stay still due to a nervous condition. It’s interspersed with the present, where the nowadays composed, businesslike and stylishly dressed thirty-ish girls hardly seem recognizable to those they meet from the past.

To kill some time, the girls go pretend apartment hunting in London’s richest areas, where they engage an obnoxious sexist yuppie (Andy Serkis) in a round of social satire that gives Hannah, after taking in the breathtaking view from a top floor high-rise balcony, the film’s best line as she wisecracks to the yuppie: “I suppose on a clear day you can see the class struggle from here.” On another round of posh apartment hunting they run into a smarmy real estate agent (Joe Tucker) who’s a former classmate they both had a crush on and fucked back in their college days, but he can’t recognize either one. At the end of the day, before Annie has to catch a train back, they visit their old flat and meet sitting on the street in front of the building an idiotic stammering lost soul,Ricky (Mark Benton), a former troubled college classmate they took pity on who lived there but is now also coincidentally visiting. He recognizes them but can, for no apparent reason, only return their affection with hate. The point being on how both of the hopeless coeds changed for the better, while those around them only got worse with maturity. I guess this is supposed to be an uplifting message that if these two basket cases can make it, anyone can. It manages to be uninteresting, slight and bleak, while desperately trying to find something to say about the human condition. Though brilliantly acted by the leads, it failed to be anything but a minor work that couldn’t do much with the situation to make it have some bite.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”