Review: “Georgy Girl” Is No Feminist Statement

By Mark Fraser

Viewed with a proverbial pinch of salt, Silvio Narizzano’s Georgy Girl (1966) is what UK-based media commentator Leanne Weston aptly calls “a comedy of manners turned social critique set amidst the backdrop of ‘Swinging London’”.

It is also, Weston adds in her 2018 essay on the film, “about a world and a girl in transition”, in which the titular character Georgina “Georgy” Parkin (Lynn Redgrave) is portrayed at different times as either “an object of inspiration, affection or ridicule”.

More to the point, though, she is also seen as an object of desire, and it’s this treatment of the protagonist that gives the film’s narrative a sinister undertone as it pretends – in line with The Seekers’ song on which it is partly based – to be a tale about liberation and individualism when in fact, behind its genial facade, it is really one concerning incarceration and servitude.

Or, to put it another way, there’s quite a bit of unpleasant subtext at work in this movie.

Sure – the awkwardly individualistic Georgy has undergone something of a transformation by the end of the film as she achieves what appears to be a form of compromised marital bliss.

But how she gets there does, at times, touch upon the highly dubious.

During the first third of the story, for instance, Georgy’s father’s rich employer James Leamington (James Mason) – a childless businessman who insists he always looked upon her as a daughter while she was growing up in his house – suggests they enter a written contract whereby she becomes his mistress (this while his wife Ellen, played by Rachel Kempson, is dying). Oddly, despite balking at this generous offer to effectively be his whore, by the movie’s conclusion she has ended up marrying the man – an act which allows her, in the words of The Seekers at least, to become “a new Georgy girl”.

Meanwhile, Georgy’s in-residence butler dad Ted (Bill Owen) more or less pimps her off to his boss (admittedly this is only suggested in a brief exchange of dialogue; nevertheless the implication is there), reaffirming his and his wife Doris’ (Clare Kelly) fear that their lone offspring is an awkward loser whose only real hope in life is to attach herself to some well-to-do gent.

And, before she eventually ties the knot with Leamington, the hitherto virginal heroine has an affair with Jos Jones (Alan Bates), who has just married her roommate/best friend Meredith (Charlotte Rampling) after the latter becomes pregnant.

To complicate matters, following the baby’s arrival a bitterly post-natal Meredith – who has already aborted previous pregnancies with Jones – decides she will adopt the infant out, at which point Georgy steps in as the surrogate mother. In effect this not only allows her to strengthen her connection with the soon-to-be divorced father, but also forces her to lie to the UK Government’s social services agency in order to keep her “daughter” Sara (actor unknown).

But when her happy-go-lucky lover irresponsibly throws caution to the wind by quitting his stifling job at the bank, Georgy has to reassess everything and, it’s at this point, she decides the lecherous old Leamington (who’s actually only 49) is the better option. Unfortunately, this development looks like it too may eventually be fraught with difficulty when – just as the newly-weds are being driven away from the church ceremony – her husband’s face seriously drops as it dawns on him that he hasn’t just secured a new (and much younger) squeeze who he has known since she was a baby, but will now have to compete with someone else’s child for his bride’s affections.

Thus, how their life of marital bliss will pan out becomes one of the story’s big unknowns as it’s here that the end credits roll. If anything, it is likely much of the above-mentioned unsavouriness dogging Georgy’s existence will continue as she embarks on what is in no way a certain future.

Mixed message

Georgy Girl

While this might sound like a grimly sanctimonious interpretation of a movie which, in many ways, tries to pass itself off as a melodramatic comedy, the conclusion is still inescapable – the ugly duckling heroine may have become something of a swan, but she ultimately looks set to remain stranded in the same stagnant pond. Or, to put it bluntly (and contrary to what the plot might otherwise be suggesting), it’s highly unlikely there will ever be a completely satisfactory existence for this woman.

In her above-mentioned essay on the film, which is included in the promotional material accompanying Powerhouse Films Ltd’s Blu-ray release of Georgy Girl, Weston acknowledges it does not treat its leading character “with warmth or hold her in such high regard” as audiences of the day did. Rather, “she is side-lined in her own story”; an interesting observation given Redgrave, in real life (and, one might add, quite unfairly) received third billing behind Mason and Bates.

“From today’s vantage point, Georgy just seems like an ordinary girl: vivacious, flawed, yet lovable – someone we could be friends with,” the critic says. “And that’s what makes the film so interesting.”

Perhaps. However, it’s also arguable that much of the movie’s intrigue stems from the fact its outlook is decidedly brutal. No one in the film, for instance, seems to have a particularly strong moral compass. Furthermore, at the end of its cinematic day, Swinging London is portrayed as a dead end; a place where wanton hedonism may be commonplace, but the privileged class still gets what it wants so long as it’s willing to pay the price. Thus, as a commentary about what was then the emerging youth culture’s attempt to distance itself from a stuffier (read older) generation, Georgy Girl actually turns out to be quite pessimistic.

This begs the question: is this what the film makers – particularly screenwriters Margaret Forster (who wrote the novel on which the movie is based) and Peter Nichols – set out to do?

Possibly, but it is quite difficult to ascertain as the quirky and upbeat feel of the whole narrative doesn’t seem to have an overtly ironic (or tragic) bone in its bubbly celluloid body.

Interestingly, Redgrave more or less agreed that the film’s portrayal of her character was not exactly positive when being interviewed by journalist Howard Maxford back in 1996.

“George (sic) is quite ruthless really,” she said. “So it is an immoral story, but George was such a survivor that people identified with her.”

Survival, though, comes at a cost – something, it seems, which may have been lost on progressive audiences of the day. As for contemporary viewers who embrace the values of the Me Too movement, they no doubt will find very few redeeming values in this ultimately sexist tale.


Leanne Weston: “Good Girl, Bad Luck: Morality and Performance in Georgy Girl”, Powerhouse Films Ltd promotional booklet, 2018, pp 5-13

Howard Maxford: “Making Georgy Girl”, Powerhouse Films Ltd promotional booklet, 2018, p 28

Source: Review: “Georgy Girl” Is No Feminist Statement

The Agony And Subversion Of The ‘Promising Young Woman’ Ending

Emerald Fennell’s scathing revenge thriller is shocking and deliberately unsatisfying.

This essay contains major spoilers for Promising Young Woman, which now streams on Hulu

By Aisha Harris

How do you like your revenge served on screen – via torture? In flames? A massive bloodbath?

How about … via text message?

This is how Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell’s cheeky, tart and provocative tale of a woman reeling from the trauma of her best friend’s sexual assault and subsequent suicide years earlier, ends. Well, that’s partly how it ends; to be more accurate, it concludes with Cassie (Carrie Mulligan) dead at the hands of Al, the man who raped her friend, but getting the final word by having left behind clues as to her whereabouts in the event of her disappearance. In a final kiss-off, Cassie sends a pre-scheduled text to her ex Ryan (who, it turns out, was present during the rape) just as Al is arrested in the middle of his own wedding for her murder.

It’s an incredibly bleak and unsatisfying fate. It’s also an inspired creative choice.

Promising Young Woman has been described as a revenge thriller, and the “thrill” of such movies is supposed to be in watching the comeuppance for the perpetrator(s). But the genre has its limitations. Even among the best examples, there’s often an overreliance on the idea that retribution in the form of physical pain and/or death equals a form of justice. (See: The quite good but also very violent John Wick films, which kick off because of a murdered dog.) They also tend to flatten characters into avatars and little else; this is especially potent when applied to wronged-woman protagonists, where the vengeance is not just personal, it’s (ostensibly) a middle finger to the patriarchy, as with films like The Nightingale and The Perfection.

As pure entertainment, are they satisfying? Maybe in the moment. But what do these characters really have left once they’ve enacted their revenge? And what does it mean for us, the viewers, to root for such vindictive outcomes?

In certain ways, Promising Young Woman is a tease, walking its audience up to the edge of conventional elements of the revenge genre only to undercut and upend them. The first clue lies in the set-up. When we’re introduced to Cassie, it’s been several years since Nina’s death, and she’s developed an odd habit: going out to bars alone and pretending to be near-blackout drunk to lure the men who would take advantage of such women. Each time one of them inevitably brings her back to his place, she waits to see just how far he’ll go to hook up with a barely responsive human, before revealing she’s in fact completely sober, thrusting them into a jarring moment of self-reflection.

From a purely creative standpoint, the conceit is clever. It’s hard not to take some pleasure in watching Cassie dress down one of those random, self-described “nice guys,” Neil (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse with just the right amount of creepy, entitled energy): “You woke me up before putting your fingers inside me,” she snarks. “That was sweet.”

But in taking a step back and realizing that this is how she’s coped – assuming the role of a sort of “Scared Straight” vigilante whose mission it is to teach dudes the laws of consent – night after night and week after week, it doesn’t feel like a tension release; it just feels sad. Cassie has spent years clinging to her trauma, having dropped out of med school in the wake of Nina’s death and, metaphorically speaking, life itself. Her parents take notice of her lack of friends, as well as her complete disinterest in pursuing any kind of career. In one scene, even Nina’s own mother urges Cassie to move on and stop living with regret and bitterness for what happened to her daughter.

This is the point. Fennell has described Promising Young Woman using the terminology of addiction, in that targeting guys in bars is a high for Cassie from which she must inevitably be plunged back down into despair, every time. This pattern, the director told IndieWire, typically goes “in one direction.” Addiction narratives, by their nature, are the opposite of catharsis. To watch a character spiral into this state of being is harrowing and anxiety-inducing – Requiem for a Dream, anyone? – and viewers are positioned to hope the character finally seeks help to address their illness, rather than continuing on the path to self-destruction.

But Cassie doesn’t want help; she wants Nina’s absence to reverberate for everyone who’s implicated in her assault and the aftermath, just as it does for her. Perhaps most disturbing and unusual of Cassie’s intended acts of vengeance is carried out on Madison (Alison Brie), a former friend. After Madison refuses to atone for dismissing Nina’s accusations all those years before, Cassie hires a strange man to bring an extremely inebriated Madison back to a hotel room, so that when Madison awakens, she believes she might have been assaulted. (It’s later revealed to be a fake-out.)

Cassie’s methods complicate our understanding of rape revenge thrillers, and in doing so, they unfurl the lie that is “an eye for an eye” – Cassie doesn’t feel better after turning the tables on Madison, the school dean, or the lawyer who, it turns out, is the one person who does show sincere remorse for how he failed Nina. It’s still not enough.

Fennell’s interest in centering the victim’s trauma rather than the offender’s punishment is unusual for this kind of movie. The majority of the 2005 film Hard Candy, for instance, hinges on the bait and subsequent torture 14-year-old Hayley (Elliot Page) enacts upon a 32-year-old photographer named Jeff (Patrick Wilson), whom she suspects of preying on minors. Like Cassie in Promising Young Woman, Hayley at one point performs an extreme turning-the-tables fake-out of her own, tricking him into believing she’s castrated him. But unlike Cassie, Hayley almost always has the upper hand in her cat-and-mouse game with Jeff, and succeeds in coercing him to kill himself with the promise she’ll never publicly leak the evidence of his crimes after he’s gone.

Hayley is an enigma, and Brian Nelson’s screenplay knows it. In the final act, a mortified and bewildered Jeff wonders who she really is, and if any details she told him about herself were true. Hayley spitefully evades the question with a pointed retort. “I’m every little girl you ever watched, touched, screwed, killed,” she says, cementing her character’s on-paper rendering as a loaded symbol. After he’s hung himself, Hayley runs off and the movie ends. Who is she beyond her motivation for revenge? And how will this affect her psyche going forward?

Promising Young Woman posits that such revenge might be a futile exercise. Cassie’s failure to carry out her plan to get back at Al at his bachelor party is twisted and depressing. Then again, so was her way of dealing – or not dealing – with her grief.

Source: The Agony And Subversion Of The ‘Promising Young Woman’ Ending

Kiri Te Kanawa sings “O Mio Babbino Caro” from “A Room With a View”

Michael Stevenson September 2017

I read this morning on the BBC that opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa says she will never sing in public again. “I don’t want to hear my voice,” said the soprano, 71, whose career has spanned more than half a century.

“It is in the past. When I’m teaching young singers and hearing beautiful young fresh voices, I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs.”

I don’t listen to much opera, but I do love Kiri Te Kanawa, whom I became a fan of after being introduced to her voice in Merchant-Ivory’s brilliant A Room With A View. Listen here to Dame Kiri singinging Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro” (“Oh My Beloved Father”), and Chi il Bel Sogno di Doretta.

Could anything be more beautiful? Thank you, Kiri Te Kanawa.