Sunday, February 18, 2007

Girl in the Cafe

Although I can't really say the blogging experience is quite what I had hoped it would be, I do love the fact that thanks to blogging, I have come to "meet" all sorts of people a long way from where I live, and to participate in projects like the one set in motion by Ingrid. Concerned that this movie was not getting the attention it deserved (I don't think it was even released here - it is certainly not available at specialist places like Aro Video), she set up a couple of mailing lists so that the DVD could be forwarded around the world.

The central character is played by Bill Nighy: I can't even say when he first came into my life. I might have seen him in the episodes of Softly, Softly or Minder he played in. I certainly saw him in Little Drummer Girl, but it would have meant nothing to me. He has been in all sorts of programmes and films I have watched, but the first time he really came to my attention as an actor to watch was in Still Crazy. There he plays the temperamental flamboyant front man for Strange Fruit, the "greatest rock band of the 1970's" - apparently inspired by no other than David Lee Roth! He is probably better known to the world as a result of Pirates of the Carribean or maybe The Constant Gardener.

In The Girl in The Cafe, he plays a high up policy analyst for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. As the film opens, we get a strong sense of the kind of life he has led: it is raining, and his umbrella is just one among many. He dines alone, apart even from his colleagues. Despite the important work he has been devoted to (it turns out his special responsibility is to run the numbers which can be used to make policies that will eradicate poverty - something he obviously believes in yet is incapable of articulating in any sort of powerful way), his life is not a success. As he enters the cafe of the title, he is hesitant, there is no place for him. In what I am sure must have been a rare burst of gumption, he asks a girl (Kelly MacDonald - who I most recently saw in Tristram Shandy as Jenny) sitting in a booth if he can join her. An immediate comedic note is struck as we watch Lawrence pour sugar after sugar into his tea: he explains "It has been quite a tough day" - but still not the worst, that would be a four spoon cup.

I had to laugh as Gina explains that she broke up with a boy because he did the top button of his pyjamas up: Lawrence is all "I'd never do that" and yet he's exactly the sort of guy who would, we just know. Poor fellow, he's such a woebegone character. When he asks Gina if she'd like to have a bite to eat, he's obviously taken aback when she agrees, even if it is because "I have absolutely nothing to do with my time". Their conversations are on the border of making me cringe at all times. But somehow he manages to open up to Gina: still, it is a jump when he asks if she'd like to go to Reykjavich with him (for a G8 conference). I love the way he introduces it - this hesitant disclosure is pure Lawrence, instead of bragging: "I'm going away next week." "To Reykjavich." "To a conference." "Its quite a big conference." "Its the G8 conference."

There, all hell breaks loose. Once again, Lawrence can see his hard work ("its what I do") going down the drain, as the various leaders get set to compromise and are thus compromised. But now he can come back to the hotel (where, of course, he behaves chastely) and vent to Gina. She doesn't hold back, reminding me of someone I dated once (she bearded the senior partner of the firm I was working for over his failure to do anything about the starving people of Azerbaijan - he came to me the next day, saying "You've got to get rid of that woman."). Gina has bigger targets - the Chancellor and then the Prime Minister, whom she takes to task in at the conference dinner, interrupting his speech to do so. Majorly embarrassing!

I have to say it was the smaller details of the film - Lawrence's dream about being in the Rolling Stones, the nonsensical conversations he and Gina have about coconut, or that everyone knows only one fact each about Iceland - which are what it made it work for me. Gina as played by MacDonald was a real honey, and Nighy pulled of Lawrence perfectly, as well as Steve Buscemi was Seymour in Ghost World. Without being given a lot of detail about their backstories, we could nonetheless tell a lot about them. Sure, trying to stop a child dying every three seconds is an important thing, just the sort of thing that we'd want the G8 summit to attend to, but it is not like a random girl in a cafe could have an impact.



Anonymous Jaci said...

Hi Barry,

This is Jaci from the US. I received The Girl from you months ago, and I just wanted to say "thank you" for the wonderful keychain -- it goes everywhere I do now.

Hope you are well!

Best wishes,

11:03 AM  

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