Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Janice Beard: 45 WPM" (1999, Dir: Clare Kilner)

I got this for the amazing Eileen Walsh (who delivered my single favorite supporting actress performance of all time in The Magdalene Sisters). "Janice Beard" is a 'quirky British comedy' in the vein of Saving Grace, Little Voice and especially Very Annie Mary, and it is definitely an excellent specimen of that genre. It is very funny in a quaint, endearing way, and it has some great comedic performances from Walsh and a cast that includes Rhys Ifans, Patsy Kensit, Sandra Voe, Eddie Marsan and Mossie Smith.

Janice Beard's (Walsh) father dies exactly at the moment of her birth, launching her mother (Voe) into depressive agoraphobia that lasts over twenty years. She develops a habit for spinning wild, fanciful stories in an effort to get her mother out of the house. When she finally leaves home to work in London as a secretary for an auto company, this habit leads to all sorts of mayhem.

The film rests on Walsh's comic stylings almost completely. She plays the exact opposite in tone of her "The Magdalene Sisters" character, and she does so very well. She is by no means typically attractive and, like many less-than-traditionally-beautiful actresses (such as Sissy Spacek and Toni Collette), she makes use of this in interesting ways. She nails both the naivete and the mischievousness of the character with aplomb, hitting home runs emotionally, vocally and physically (witness her hilariously apt expressions and voice when she pretends to be a TV interviewer).

Supporting thesps are fine all around, but Voe is especially touching as Janice's mother. Sarah McVicar, who plays one of Janice's office mates, is a dead ringer for Miranda Richardson. The cinematography is very good for a movie of this type, and there is some great use of patterns and colors in the camerawork.

Overall, it's light fun. Don't expect a huge deeper meaning, but it is very good for what it is.

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