WATCHED & RATED // Fast Girls

It only makes sense that with the Olympics coming to London this year that there is a film that marks the significance of this to London. And Fast Girls is one of the mainstream films that celebrate this. I had the chance to view Fast Girls at the BBC Radio 1 & 1 Xtra Hackney Academy, which was bustling with teenagers at 2pm. Which I find strange, as I’m pretty sure they are meant to be in school or college. The screening was hosted by Trevor Nelson and was followed by a Q&A with some of the cast and director Regan Hall.

Fast Girls lead character Shania Andrews is played by Being Human’s Lenora Crichlow. We see Shania, a feisty girl from the wrong side of town, qualify to be in the GB team to compete in the World Athletic Championships. Although she hasn’t got the support of her family behind her what she does have is Brian, a shopkeeper by day, her coach by night. Brian pushes her to take her chances at winning a gold medal in the Championships. When Shania starts training with the GB relay team she discovers she has an issue with working in a team. During the Q&A session Clarke did emphasise that this is the main theme they tried push out in the film. I would say, ‘isn’t it obvious to anybody that there will be situations where you will have to overcome difference with people you work with for the common gain of the team’. But I did then consider that this is a positive message for the teenage audiences that Fast Girls target.

Shania’s antagonist is not only herself but also rich girl Lisa temple, played by Lilly James (Wrath of the Titans). Lisa and Shania can’t seem to find common ground in the beginning. Firstly they are fiercely competitive over performance, as in who is the faster athlete. But then Shania finds that she has a jealous streak over the friendship Physiotherapist Carl (Bradley James) has with Lisa, because she has developed a crush on him.

Now I have broken it down, doesn’t it sound a bit fluffy? Fast girls has potential, but fails to deliver a strong punch. There are so many plot threads initiated, but never explored too deeply. We know she doesn’t have a mother, the coach can’t commit to helping her further, she has a crush on Carl, she hates working in a team; but what we don’t know is WHY. None of the issues including the rivalry with Lisa are explored beneath the surface, and this only left me feeling detached from the characters. And to add to it, Fast Girls was unquestionably a film that you know from the get-go that the Protagonist will come out on top. It does not leave much room for anticipation and guesswork by the audience.

Filmmaker/ Actor Noel Clarke (Kiddulthood, 54321, Dr Who) was commissioned to co-write this script. So admittedly I was expecting it to be a bit sloppy, conventional, not challenging any themes, only highlighting them, like in his past work. So although I can’t say in Fast Girls he challenged many themes, what Clarke did well was make the themes universal and resonate with people from various socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. It wasn’t just about the estate kids hustle, but instead about how we all hustle in our own little world.

I think Fast Girls install a sense of pride and anticipation in younger audiences, as they will be less cynical about the validity of the events taking place. During the last scene the screening was roaring with applause for the outcome, which somehow swept me up with it along the way. Maybe even a teardrop tried to rise from my eyes (it was probably a tear to represent my sadness about the second-rate films being pushed out to mainstream audiences).

Despite Fast Girls not being one of the most provocative films I have watched, I do feel that that was never the intention. It is a light-hearted drama, which intends to come across as a feel good film aimed at the youth. So I think it is fine to let it be that. But if you are looking for more thought-provoking films relating to the Olympics don’t miss out on the films being screened within the Fun and Games strand at the East End Film Festival. The festival takes place from 3rd – 8th July across various locations in East London, the home of the games. I will be there of course, so come join me in indulging in film after film, after film, and then some.

DS RATED: 6/10

Here are some snapshots of the Q&A Sessions and the trailer.

 

Fast Girls 
Production Year: 2012
Countries: UK
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 91 mins
Director: Regan Hall

WATCHED & RATED // Match Point

With Woody Allen you kind of know what you’re getting out of him, well in his recent work anyway; can’t say I have watched much of his earlier films. You know you’re being delivered a satire with various degrees of humour, à la Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona and You’ll Meet a Tall Dark StrangerSo I’m quite surprised that Allen has included Match Point in his six top favourite films of his own work (Source: imdb). Personally I feel Match Point is a very clumsy film, from the dialogue to the acting to the structure. It’s as if he had this amazing idea for the outcome of the film and the rest was just… filler.

Match Point is a Romantic Drama with a tinge of thriller, featuring Scarlett Johansson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Chris Wilton, a former tennis pro (Meyers) falls for a femme-fatal type, Nola Rice (Johansson) who happens to be dating his friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law Tom (Matthew Goode). He is groomed by his girlfriend’s (Tom’s sister Chloe) wealthy upper-middle class family and in due course marries her. Unluckily for Chris after his nuptials Tom, his now brother-in-law breaks-up with Nola, leaving him to pursue her, which then leads to a seedy affair. Nola is taking their relationship serious and insists Chris tells his wife the truth. Chris is in two minds and deals with the matter unexpectedly with a shotgun.

During the first hour of the film I couldn’t help cringing at the mechanical dialogue and the attempt to satire the upper-middle class, especially because I felt the actors weren’t acting and they conveniently felt right in their element. The beginning of the film weirdly felt as though a romance might strike up between Chris and Tom (Matthew Goode), his then client. Between Meyers lip pout-age, plus a soft feminine tone of voice, and Goode’s grooming him into his family circle, I really started to wonder what this is I’m watching. I wasn’t sure if it was bad acting, deplorably stereotypical characters, or the attempt to push this whole poor man in a rich world scenario that made two-thirds of the film blasé. And to add to it I truly believed that Nola Rice played by Johansson was a plausible character, which meant that Johansson was doing a good job and in fact better than all the other actors, including Meyers.  Now that I didn’t expect.

But as I said the film does take turn into a more sinister and more satirical direction; what I think Allen initially intended for this film. The protagonist that we emphasise with because of his boring marriage blah blah blah… turns into the cold-hearted antagonizer that uses a shotgun to end his problems.

In the end Match Point makes sense, well only if you a willing forgive the continuous errors. But the real issue is that audiences could easily lose interest in the forbidden love affair story that takes over two-thirds of the film, and switch off before the juicy humourous bit that comes in during the last 30 minutes.

Let’s just hope Allen can redeem himself (in my eyes of course) with his latest offering To Rome with Love. It does look funny and the casting is pretty amazing.

The trailer kind of reflects the awkwardness of the film.

Enjoy!

Rated: 6/10

Match Point 
Release Year: 2005
Countries: UK, Rest of the World
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 124 mins
Director: Woody Allen

WATCHED & RATED: The Lucky One

I don’t know about other film enthusiasts but I like to watch a range of films including outright cheesy chick flicks that ‘real’ film lovers tend to snub. Even though many chick flicks are ridiculous my film choices are based on my mood, and when I decided to see The Lucky One I was in the mood to be fed romantic lies and perve on Zac Efron. The Lucky One is another Nicholas Sparks adaptation (writer of The Notebook and A Walk to Remember). So those of you that have seen either will know that although very cliché and squirmy, they can be quite moving and be any ‘serious’ film enthusiasts guilty pleasure.

The Lucky One is a story about Logan (Efron), a Marine that returns from Iraq by the skin of his teeth back to the states. After an attack he stumbles upon a picture of a woman, which he admires for a second and then his unit is attacked at that moment. He continues to survive many attacks after this, which leads him to believe that this picture is his lucky charm, so when he heads back to the states he searches for the woman to thank her. Cheesy right? Well he does find her, ends up working for her and withholds the truth about why he came to see her in the first place. Taylor Shilling plays Beth, the woman in the picture. She is a fun-loving mother, granddaughter and divorcee. The romance between the two is inevitable from the moment he found the picture, because it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any shocking twist. All the sneaky looks, reluctant flirting, and Logan bonding with her kid, was a recipe for a romantic bore fest. The pathetic part of me could not help but crack a helpless smile at all sweet shiny parts of the growth of love and overcoming obstacles like a pointless ex-husband. The other part was screaming out “Why are you watching this hollywood manufactured myth?” But to be honest you just got to get it out of your system. It was like an itch that needed scratching. Unfortunately it was for longer than necessary and it has left me wounded.

I feel bad saying this, but Zac Efron’s melting eyes could not even make this into a provoking film. His two-dimensional acting did not up the credibility of this romantic story, like how Ryan Gosling’s stoicism did in the Notebook or Mandy Moore’s super good girl act did in A Walk to Remember. Efron getting into character consisted of his straightened stance like a marine type, and the broody look on his face when things get serious. And that was where it began and ended. A bit disappointed as I feel he could do better. I really liked him in 17 Again and Me and Orson Welles.

The Lucky One is a sweet film, sugar-coated with fast romance and lies that a handsome marine with no friends or a life post war will come knocking on your door and immerse himself in your life . It’s one of those films that you keep say to yourself ‘Really?’ or sarcastically  ‘Sure’, well only if you’ve not been totally hypnotised by Zac Efron’s smouldering eyes. Or maybe I’m just being cynical.

DS RATED: 5.5/10

The Lucky One 
Release Year: 2012
Countries: US, Rest of the World
Cert: 12A
Runtime: 101 mins
Director: Scott Hicks

WATCHED & RATED: Catfish

I know I may be late on this one, but I have to share with you how ingenious Docu-film Catfish is. In the back end of 2010 Catfish was being mentioned here, there and everywhere, in press reviews to Film 2010 with Claudia Winkleman. Being dubbbed as the social network film to rival The Social Network. But as much as The Social Network and Catfish story is predominantly about relationships, Catfish focuses on the implications social networks such as Facebook have on the creation and maintaining of relationship. It is not a lecture on how to be safe on the net, instead it’s much more narrative driven and even has chilling suspense that has people questioning the validity of it.

The lead character is New Yorker Yaniv Schulman, a self assured easy going photographer, who granted his film director brother Ariel Schulman and best-friend Henry Joost permission to capture the relationship he built with 8 year old Abby. I know it sounds quite sinister, I was thinking where is this going when watching it. Abby and Yaniv relationship is built over him taking photographs and Abby painting and then selling them. They met over Facebook. This then encourages a relationship with other members of the family over the phone and through Facebook. The story on the surface is of potential love blossoming. Not to worry it’s not the 8 year old Abby.  It’s with her artist/dancer/vet assistant 18 year old step-sister Megan, who happens to be very attractive. We see Yaniv fall for the sweet soft voiced aspiring singer. But still their relationship is always maintained over Facebook, through texts and occasionally on the phone. So Yaniv has never met any of these friends in the physical. Well the story takes us down to a road of discovery and a whole lot more.

The magic of the film comes from maintaining an encapsulating strong narrative through a genre that is defined as documentary by Schulman and Joost. The action and resolution is laid out just as it would when putting pen to paper. But they maintain there is no fiction in the film they have made, just the truth.

Well it could be easily true, especially as it is made in America. At the same time Joost and the Schulmans’ could have steered the documentary in the right direction. This is easily one of 2010’s bests, and has an advantage over films made out the the Hollywood factories, that can lack true emotion within the story that keeps pulling the viewers along with them. For a film made on a shoestring budget of $30,000, the success of it was phenomenal. Netting $3m at the box office on limited release is a huge encouragement for budding film makers.

DS RATED: 8/10

 

Catfish 
Production Year: 2010
Countries: Rest of the World, USA
Cert (UK): 12A
Runtime: 94 mins
Directors: Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost 

 

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