Career Girls - 1997
Director(s): Mike Leigh
Writer(s): Mike Leigh
Cinematography by: Dick Pope
Editor(s): Robin Sales
Cast: Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Kate Byers, Mark Benton, Andy Serkis and Joe Tucker
Mike Leigh has been a staple name in Hollywood and England for decades - with his trademark "kitchen sink realism" style making him a standout amongst his peers. Up until now, I had not seen anything from his filmography, and thanks to the Criterion Channel, I have rectified this hole in my cinema "knowledge." Let's talk about 1997's Career Girls.
The story follows Annie (Steadman), as she is traveling to London for the first time in six years - visiting her college roommate Hannah (Cartridge). On her way there, she reflects on back on their friendship's rocky start and how far they have come as individuals. During their weekend together, they realize how much they leaned on each other to survive college and their insecurities, but more importantly, they realize how far they still have to go.
This film is unusual in many ways, including the fact that the story itself is not interested in providing a drastic conclusion to the story arch of our leads. It presents itself as another day playing out and paying off many of the themes set up during the origin of their friendship. Both of our leads grow as human beings, losing many of their quirks and fears, but holding on to the same desires that drove them in the past. It does get a bit old after a while, watching the actors stare into the abyss as they think back on their past friendship, but that is a small hurdle to overcome.
Katrin Cartlidge and Lynda Steadman chemistry and performances are what carries this film through its lose narrative, and repetitive flashbacks. They essentially play two characters, their younger selves, filled with quirks, crippling insecurities, and conflicting personalities that test their boundaries. And their post-college selves, now career women, that have overcome most of their characteristics and have a strong bond with each other, yet they are still held back by their insecurities. When the movie starts, you see their relationship as something unlikely - but as the story progress and you see their admiration for one another, Steadman admires Cartlidge’s independence and self-reliance, and Cartilage respects Steadman's loving relationship with her mother and her willingness to accept anyone that comes into her life.
Career Girls is a straightforward exploration of friendship and how it can be that small push many people need to find their voice in the world. While it may seem that our leads are living in the past, they are using their shared experiences as a springboard of growth in their current "slump' as both feel they are in, as they don't have all both thought they would have by their age. Leigh sits back and does not try to showboat with flashy camera movements or gorgeous cinematography - he trusts in his actors, and the characters that he has written are enough to carry the message.
Career Girls is a Glass Half Full.
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