August 23, 2011
Review - " The Girl in the Cafe " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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The Girl in the Café
Directed by: David Yates
Starring: Bill Nighy, Kelly Macdonald, Ken Stott, Anton
Lesser, Corin Redgrave, Maneka Das,
The Girl in the Cafe is an odd idea for a romance, mixing a
May-December relationship with world politics, ultimately
becoming a cry to put an end to extreme global poverty.
Certainly such an undertaking is ambitious, if a bit
schizophrenic, but credit screenwriter Richard Curtis (Love
Actually, Bridget Jones's Diary) for getting the balance
between the two competing interests right more often than
not. it's a manipulative story to be sure, and not free from
propagandizing its points, but it does ultimately deliver a
message that a person should try to make a difference if
possible, and that if we (meaning those of affluence) really
wanted to put an end to a despicable world problem like
poverty or hunger, we could.
The star of the piece is Bill Nighy (The Hitchhiker's Guide to
the Galaxy, Love Actually), playing Lawrence, who deals
with mostly financial advice in his position working directly
for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Lawrence has
dedicated his life to his career and working for the common
good, so much so that he has found little time to get away,
and even less time for a relationship with a woman. This all
changes when he shares a table in a crowded cafe with
Gina (Macdonald, Entropy), a young woman of beauty but
little direction, and the two enjoy a nice chat, the only
breath of fresh air Lawrence has been afforded since he has begun the laborious preparations for the upcoming G8 summit.
The two decide to meet again, striking up a little courtship, and when Lawrence needs to travel to Iceland for the summit, he
takes Gina along, willing to put up with all the gossip to spend more time with her. Gina becomes fascinated with what
Lawrence does, and soon, she begins offering up advice to the powers that be that she runs into at social occasions,
although her comments are far from well received. Lawrence must decide whether or not his feelings for Gina are worth
jeopardizing all he has spent his life building up, or if perhaps he has spent so much time helping others, he has forgotten to
tend to his own happiness in the process.
If anything, Curtis points out in clear fashion the importance of the G8 summit, and toward the end of his film, he is almost
making it an issue to try to create more "girls in the cafe" to voice their opinions and apply pressure to those about to meet
in the next one. The romantic developments between Lawrence and Gina sucks us into their story, after which we are slowly
opened up to receive the information that Curtis would like to deliver in a political sense. It works in its own way, but
ultimately, Curtis takes us to the dance but leaves us stranded without a ride back, as the romantic drama elements are
sketchily drawn up and dispatched without much resolution.
David Yates (director of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) does provide some very good direction, and the look of
the film is quite good considering the modest budget. The real glue that holds it all together are the performances of the
very appealing cast, with Bill Nighy looking like a complete fish out of water when it comes to emotional relationships, and
Ken Stott (King Arthur, Shallow Grave) is also quite good as the politician that can only keep his composure so long with all
that's going on around him. Yates knows his cast well, as he had directed Nighy and Macdonald in his BBC television series,
"State of Play".
The Girl in the Cafe has its share of flaws, and can be very uneven at times, but it is still a worthwhile film for some food for
thought and for a nice story of love between two very different people. Anyone who has struggled with shyness in the face of
the opposite sex should enjoy Bill Nighy's performance as the near socially incapacitated Lawrence. Great movie with
excellent performances by all and an inspiring message about the potential each and every one of us has for making the
world a better place.
A thoroughly charming, interesting, intelligent
movie. Bill Nighy gives an amazing
performance as a somewhat sad, self-effacing,
quiet, fairly highly-ranked British civil servant.
The story is a bit slow moving, but the
characters are very well developed, very
unusual, and so they hold your interest. The
message is deep and global (go figure...), far
beyond the romance of the two main
characters. The setting is very foreign and all
the more interesting as such.
There are some very good comedic moments
interspersed here and there in this excellent
film. And a lot of very inspiring gumption too.