April 23, 2005

Georgy Girl (1966)
Grade: 62/100

Director: Silvio Narizzano
Stars: Lynn Redgrave, Alan Bates, James Mason

What it's about. Set in mid-sixties England, grown butler's daughter Georgy (Redgrave) must choose between determined middle-aged millionaire James Mason and unstable working class lovers, selfish Meredith (Charlotte Rampling) and immature Jos (Bates).

How others will see it. May the Production Code rest in peace, for Georgy Girl stomps all over its grave. Not many adults will be truly shocked by the switching partners and Mason's unseemly stalking of the young woman he had in effect raised, but they probably didn't realize that such things went on in a 1966 black and white film. A scene with a woman in labor is also unpleasantly realistic.

Alan Bates has the best and most challenging role as the impassioned and unpredictable Jos. Mason strays little from his mannered screen persona, but he is sympathetic nonetheless. Some scenes and turning points don't really work: Meredith decides to keep the baby she quickly grows to hate, Redgraver does a trampy singer act that is too involved to be spontaneous, and Mason's wife is conveniently killed off to leave a spot wide open for Redgrave.

How I felt about it. Georgy Girl was something of a sixties version of Bridget Jones's Diary. Slightly heavy Redgrave plays a character less attractive than the actress herself, and when she finally receives proper cosmetic attention, as in the final scene, it's clear she's a beauty.

Adoring Mason represents the dull but reliable adulthood she seeks to delay, while she sows her wild oats with Jos and Meredith, and baby makes four. Redgrave's reluctance to take the common sense (and mercenary) path is endearingly human, however. Stress and random extremes of emotion make for a thrilling ride through life, when the alternative is fending off the passes of a doltish yet obliging much older man.

Redgrave's ugly duckling contrasts with the lovely but vulgar Meredith, to whom love and loyalty are concepts to ridicule. While the looks last, she wants to party. You're only young once, and when the bloom is off the rose, probably another James Mason or some similar fool will be there to pay the bills.

You can't argue with her logic, if that's what she wants, but her attitude is certain to earn disapproval from the morality brigade, who will be unhappy that she lives happily ever after.