Wednesday, 6 May 2009

No. 119 : What A Girl Wants




Here’s another film where it’s tough to criticise effectively given that I’m not in the target demographic of screaming teens or dirty old men. I may be old but I shower once a week whether I need it or not.

The film is an adaptation of an 1958 play which itself seems to have ripped off ‘Cinderella’ somewhat. Teen sensation Amanda Bynes, whom I only know as the thick one out of ‘Hairspray’, stars as Daphne who lives in Chinatown for some unknown reason, with her hippy Mother. The pair work weddings as singer and waitress respectively and Daphne is always sad when the father/daughter dance takes place as she never knew her Dad.

We learn in flashback that her parents met on a hippy odyssey in Morocco and got married by some Bedouin tribesmen. Her Dad, played by Colin Firth in his usual awkward English style, is a lord and his stuffy family don’t take too kindly to his choice of bride and she is soon sent away by the scheming aide Jonathan Pryce. Both mistakenly thought the other wanted out and although she’s pregnant Mum goes along with the separation without telling of the impending birth. I think I’d have sought some one on one confirmation before heading off but I never could take a hint

Years later, with Daphne now a teenager, she decides to go and find her dad who has renounced his title and is now standing for public election. He still has Pryce on the staff and is engaged to the one who Hugh Grant dumped at the alter in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’. The pushy bride and her daughter are social climbers who’ll trample over anyone to get in the society pages. Meanwhile Daphne has arrived in the Hollywood version of London, complete with its red buses and people talking about ‘the dog and bone’. Credibility is stretched somewhat when someone comes out of the toilet saying ‘Loo’s free’ only to be asked ‘Who’s Lou?’.

She stays at a grubby hotel which is fortunately run by a young hunk who has jobs conveniently placed all over the movie from valet parker to coming out gala singer. This role is taken by Oliver James and he does a better job here than in recent ‘W’ outing ‘Without a Paddle : Nature’s Calling’. After meeting Dad, Daphne is invited to stay at his mansion and enjoy some of the social whirl, while also being ineffectively sabotaged by the evil step mother and her daughter.

After generally charming everyone and having her own party, which is attended by The Queen no less, Daphne decides the backstabbing, social climbing world isn’t for her. Her dad meanwhile learns of his aide’s treachery and the generally bitchiness of his fiancé. Will he stick with his rigid position to maintain his family’s standing and win the election or will he bugger off to America to be with his sassy daughter and never been touched since hippy girlfriend? Two guesses allowed!

I quite enjoyed this film despite its predicable coming of age and knowing what really is of value in life credentials. Bynes is likable in the lead but I could of done with less pratfalls and outfit changes - all of which are no doubt available on her own label. Her romance was unconvincing as was her decision to ‘play the game’ and get all stuffy for five minutes. Firth was so stiff he could of done with a coat of varnish but his man trapped in a position role was thinly written. We knew he was a cool dude when he ate Coco Pops - yeah radical!

The nasty aide and step mom were never fully ‘Boo Hiss’ bad and the saccharine laced old wise mother was a cliché too far. There were a few laughs however and the fast paced feel good nature of the film makes it hard to hate. I liked the Queen and Prince Charles showing up as well as plenty of ‘C’ list British talent filling out the minor roles. It also closed with a ‘what happened next’ section which I always enjoy.

By no means a classic but no swearing, nudity or violence and lots of tight tops adds up to a wholesome and somewhat rewarding guilty pleasure.

Best Bit : Prince Charles’ Royal Dress Show
‘W’ Rating 15/23

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