Career Girls (1997)

Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Katrin Cartlidge, Lunda Steadman, Mark Nenton, Andy Serkis. UK. 1h 23m

I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to spend time with Mike Leigh, sometime in the late 80’s early 90’s, is he this hyper thinking character he often portrays in his films, in this case the energetic Hannah (Cartlidge) who, in this femine tour de force is a lady version of Johnny Fletcher (David Thewlis) from Naked, at least with her quick wit and attitude, she’s no much of an awkward asshole.. thankfully!

4 years after Naked (1993) Leigh returns with a less traumatic but equally charming insight into the friendship between Hannah and Annie (Steadman), once best friends at university, the two awkward characters shared their adventures and possibly even a boyfriend at one time.. Annie’s psoriasis held her back. But after a rough start Hannah begins to see the real charm and quality of the girl and their union is one of strength and genuine caring for eachother. The third wheel, Clare (Byers), the original roommate to Hannah is shoon shafted from the apartment for her abrasive nature and the girls move in Ricky (Benton) a husky austic guy who has the hots for Annie, Mark Benton’s portrayal of autism for the time was really outstanding, there’s a lot more understanding of the condition and yet the character, while not entirely accurate as being autism really highlights a person with a mix of mental conditions that we recognize without putting a finger on it.

All Hannah wanted was a roommate… instead she got a best friend.

Mike tells the story from the present which is 10 years after the student days Annies with less of a skin condition is stopping over in london and Hannah is putting her up for the night, the girls use their time to rekindle their younger inner spirits and through a few outings they seem to accidentally stumble across the paths of their old school friends, boyfriends and anyone else who had dealing with the misfits.

“Ms. Brontë, Ms. Brontë, who will I have sex with next?”

-Annie

It’s the only Mike Leigh not to gather 4/4 stars from Roger Ebert, but it’s a winner in my books, the character loves the cure and I love them. Leigh has this keen eye to show human vulnerabilities, but the harder edge is softened for these Career girls, and there’s a sense of tying up loose ends and not leaving vulnerable people lost in the waves of self pity as in other Leigh films. Instead there’s almost a happy ending and his die hard fans seem to be more upset with this fact!

With this being the generation I saw growing up (or not.. ) I have to say it was refreshingly nostalgic to remember the days when the Cure and cool clothes were most important in life, but the ideas of forgiveness and true friendship are to be taken away from this rose tinted dramatic piece maybe it’s a bit too polished and convenient and the characters don’t work hard, people are presented to them in a timely fashion, but if you picture it as a trip down memory lane, we’ve all dreamt of similar situations, so why not cram them into one blistering tear filled day? For me Career Girls is another poignant reminder that Katrin Cartlidge was taken from us way too early

Rating: 8/10

Related: Naked (1993), High Hopes (1988),
Lists: Top 5 Mike Leigh
Spotlight: Katrin Cartlidge

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