Georgy Girl(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 7.5.2005)
Along with Blow-up,Darling, A Hard Day's Night, The Knack, and Morgan!, Georgy Girl is an artifact of mid-sixties swinging London, full of miniskirted young women and young men in Carnaby Street duds, experimenting with sex, thumbing their noses at authority, and generally having a good time. Georgy Girl, released in 1966, is also typical of British filmmaking of the period: black-and-white cinematography, quick cutting, slow motion, and a dream sequence. As a result of this sixties style, Georgy Girl remains watchable, despite the rather conventional story at its core.
Georgy (Lynn Redgrave) is 22, tall, and overweight. She wants to be loved but resists the advances of wealthy James Leamington (James Mason), the employer of her butler father (Bill Owen). James is, after all, 49 and married. Georgy lives in a seedy flat with Meredith (Charlotte Rampling), a classical violinist who constantly cheats on her longtime boyfriend, Jos (Alan Bates), a bank clerk. Georgy, an obvious ancestor of Bridget Jones, is drawn to Jos. James offers Georgy a contract to be his mistress. Meredith becomes pregnant and marries Jos. Meredith does not embrace either marriage or her impending motherhood. The neglected Jos suddenly realizes he loves Georgy. James's wife (Rachel Kempson, mother of Redgrave) dies. The baby is born. Matters sort themselves out.
Screenwriters Margaret Forster, adapting her novel, and Peter Nichols, the playwright best known for A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, have essentially created a kitchen-sink sitcom in which thinly drawn characters react to the latest crises in their lives. We never truly understand what James sees in Georgy or Meredith in Jos or Jos in Georgy. It's all wacky pathos. Nevertheless, Georgy Girl is worth seeing as a film representative of its time and as a showcase for several notable performances.
Redgrave, whose sizable role earned her an Oscar nomination, charges through the film with an awkward charm. If only she didn't try so hard to make Georgy lovable. Redgrave's best moment comes when Georgy disrupts James' birthday party with a hip-swinging rendition of a bawdy song, bewildering and embarrassing everyone but a delighted James. Bates' impetuous Cockney seems to owe a debt to the persona presented by John Lennon in A Hard Day's Night. Constantly mugging and delighting in his self-centeredness, Bates' Jos is his liveliest role to this point and a predecessor to later hyperactive types, especially Butley.
Meredith is just a spoiled bitch and, at the time of the film's release, Rampling seemed little more than just another pretty face. She didn't yet have that distinctively sultry voice. For those who look hard enough, there are glimmers in Meredith of the vulnerable characters Rampling would later play in films like Stardust Memories, The Verdict, and Under the Sand. How Meredith can afford the fashions by Mary Quant, the "in" British designer of the time, is another matter.
Many observers, then and now, have been puzzled by Mason's Oscar nomination. His dirty old man -- Mason was 57, not 49 like the character -- represents the smugly comfortable world the younger characters are rebelling against, but because James is open to new experiences and isn't half as stuffy as his wife and their friends, he is far from a cliche. Offering a simpler variation on his Humbert Humbert from Lolita four years earlier, Mason gives James a subtle complexity missing from the script.
Georgy Girl was the highpoint of director Silvio Narizzano's career. Its critical and commercial success earned him a Hollywood assignment, the ill-fated Western Blue with Terence Stamp. After its flop, he was soon back in British television. Much of the film's energy comes from the editing of John Bloom, especially with the cutting back and forth in the Georgy-Jos scenes. Bloom, brother of Claire, has gone on to a long and distinguished career, meaning top-heavy dreck like The Lion in Winter, Gandhi, and Closer.
Sony has provided an adequate 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, though Ken Higgins' black-and-white images lack texture and the night scenes are often too dark. Another Sony sin is the dreadful pink packaging, as if the only way to sell Georgy Girl is as a chick flick. The shots of London on the DVD cover brutally misrepresent what the film is about. The color stills are also misleading, with one giving away the ending (plus, Narizzano's first name is misspelled). Fittingly, given this slipshod presentation, there are no extras.
Georgy Girl is most famous, of course, for the theme song sung by the Seekers and written by Jim Dale and Tom Springfield, Dusty's brother. A huge hit, the song is the type sneered at in Bob Fosse's All That Jazz as catchy and bouncy. It was bad in 1966 and still is today. -- Michael Adams