Sunday, March 27, 2011

GROWN UPS (1980) - Mike Leigh

The beauty of Mike Leigh's "devised by" directing method is that it often results in character rich films finely attuned to the stale rhythms and slow-burn frustrations of everyday life. Though you may not "enjoy being with his coterie of alternately manic and monosyllabic low to middle class Londoners, you respect the films that contain them because they just ring so goddamn TRUE. In the case of Grown Ups, the proceedings may have been TOO true to life. Midway through, I found myself craving a plot, a pulse, anything to save me from another ten minutes with these freshly domesticated dullards.

The bare wisp of a story involves a young couple newly moved in to a council house fixer-upper, one that they never much get around to fixing up. That's because they spend most of their time trying to avoid the girl's lonely, chatty sister who's always stopping over for a visit. When they're not doing that, they're wondering what life is like for the slightly better-off couple next door. The husband happens to be their former teacher, a stuffed shirt who makes odd sighing noises and has little interest in humanity (see pic above).

The usual Leigh class resentment elements are all here, along with younger versions of his most reliable actors -- Brenda Blethyn and Lesley Manville. For some reason, the misery on display didn't coalesce into dramatic gold for me this time. By the time the lonely sister (Blethyn) finally flies off the handle and locks herself screaming in the neighbor's bathroom, I was making my own odd sighing noises and singing Tom Waits by way of Joey Ramone. "I don't wanna grow up."

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