Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Georgy Girl has swingin' London written all over it, with the overcast streets seeing plenty
of 'youthful' antics like running in the rain and making emotional scenes in front of strangers. A
vehicle for the talents of English star offspring Lynn Redgrave, the movie tries far too hard
to make her loveable but succeeds in most of its aims - we care deeply what happens to this 'ugly
duckling' who doesn't fit into the fashionable mod landscape.
Plain Georgy (Lynn Redgrave) lives with swingin' Meredith (Charlotte Rampling) but
certainly doesn't share her lifestyle. She's friends with Meredith's spirited boyfriend Jos Jones
(Alan Bates) and is pursued by her father's wealthy employer James Leamington (James Mason), a
pleasant but clueless older man who has the nerve to present Georgy with a master/mistress
arrangement proposal - with a contract. Meredith gets pregant by Jos and decides to have the baby,
but it's Georgy who's excited about the prospect of motherhood. She suddenly seems the only mature
person, surrounded by infantile personalities.
In 1966 London's Mod bubble was just entering its second full season. That was the year of Richard
Lester's strongest youth comedy
The Knack ... And How to Get It,
which codified Lester's oft-copied techniques of jump cutting, eccentric dialogue and semi-improvised
horseplay for instant imitation by American copycats The Monkees and You're a Big Boy
Now. Italian director Silvio Narizzano soft-pedals the editorial trickery but sticks with
the familiar Mod trappings, especially in Alan Bates' sprightly and spirited boyfriend character.
Bates is fast with a snappy line of dialogue and prone to antic bits of business with his
The emblematic scene for this kind of film is a display of self-humiliating public theatrics,
preferably with a romantic bent. In The Knack it's a taste of guerilla theater as two excited
youths roll Rita Tushingham around the streets in a bedframe. For this film, Bates pursues Redgrave
through the streets and hotel lobbies, going down on one knee to loudly propose and threatening to
strip naked unless she hears him out.
Georgy Girl has a strained balance between realism and flat farce that is repeatedly
rescued by the talented cast. James Mason (inexplicably nominated for a Supporting Oscar) is
basically a dirty old man with designs on his butler's daughter; he's the least amusing character and
functions to perform a convenient monetary rescue at the film's end. Bates buoys his Mod character
without much effort and squeaks by on charm alone. The surprise is Charlotte Rampling, who
captures perfectly the dismay of a flighty charmer disgusted at the idea of becoming a baby factory.
She doesn't know what's worst about pregnancy, looking "like the back end of a bus" or "having
nothing to do at night." The best material shows her rage at the whole motherhood situation while
Redgrave and Bates get into the excitement of having a baby. In later films like The Night
Porter Rampling would later shrink into a skeletal creature; here she looks a lot healthier.
Lynn Redgrave is a fine central character even if made to dress like a truck driver to live up
to the dowdy unattractiveness demanded by the script. Everyone makes cruel jokes about her looks,
and the way she rejects a (horrible) hairstyle and a party dress makes us think that the same
material a few years later would fit a character who discovers she's a lesbian. But Georgy just
wants to be loved, even if she feels unfit to play the girly role. Unlike the hapless Toni Collette
in Muriel's Wedding, it's other people who pressure Georgy to be more feminine. She seems
to be happiest when inspiring the tots in her preschool activity class.
In an effort to launch Redgrave as a personality the film tries too hard to present her as a combo
Chaplin / Giulietta Masina clown for all occasions. The lowpoint is a vampy gag song she croons in a
tight gown and overdone eye makeup. It's not meant to be successful but just seems too embarrassing -
it doesn't make sense when James Mason's distracted millionaire isn't offended. Neither does his
obsession with Georgy. If he really wants to buy a mistress he could do much better. Mason's
attraction (with her father's approval) seems entirely sick, especially when Mason reminds us so
much of Humbert Humbert in Lolita.
Georgy Girl's later chapters play out like a revisit to Dr. Seuss' Horton Hatches the
Egg, with surrogate mother Redgrave being the one to make an emotional bond with the baby
while Rampling returns to her happy dating whirl. The story seems destined for a negative
ending in the Kitchen Sink mold, when Georgy finally plays her trump card to make a bargain for
her future. Silvio Narizzano shows that his directing smarts go beyond his previous Hammer hit
(aka Die! Die! My Darling!),
and the film ends on a fairly satisfactory note.
For audiences fond of rigged Ugly Duckling stories, it will play as a big success.
Nowadays we suspect that most story sabotage happens far earlier in the filming process,
but in Georgy Girl it looks as if the studio executives saw Narizzano's final product
and decided it lacked clarity and upbeat reassurance for audiences who want their happy endings
spelled out for them. Hence the addition of a bouncy, optimistic theme
tune sung by The Seekers. It was popular enough on the radio to remain a familiar oldie while the
movie has been largely set aside. It does add an uplift to
a marvelous shot of the crying baby being given to Georgy through the window of a Rolls Royce. But
the lyrics are determined to assure the audience that all is fine, Georgy's life isn't going to
be perfect but she's made a wise bargain, etc. A message to every impoverished ugly duckling in the
big cities: A quick deal with a millionaire is a foolproof solution to most any problem.
Columbia/Sony's DVD of Georgy Girl is a plainwrap presentation that sports a new
(and ugly) Sony Pictures logo. There are no extras, but otherwise it's a good disc: An excellent
enhanced transfer, clear sound. The package text misreads the movie: If Georgy
"yearns for traditional life and traditional romance," she seems to reject it at every opportunity.
Director Silvio Narizzano probably won't be pleased to see his name misspelled, either.
On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor,
Georgy Girl rates:
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 3, 2005
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2005 Glenn Erickson
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