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Career Girls

Old college flatmates Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) and Annie (Lynda Steadman) decide to spend a weekend together for old time's sake after a six-year absence. And as their current weekend unfolds, their modern story overlaps with their years together as college students, when Hannah was more of a wise-arse Londoner and Annie a shy northerner suffering from dermatitis. The modern storyline focuses on Hannah's search for a new place to live, while in the past the story focuses on the men who entered into their lives. At first there's Ricky (Mark Benton), a slobbish guy who can't keep his eyes open when he talks and who's pals with Annie, but their friendship dies when she rejects his advances. Then comes Adrian Spinks (Joe Tucker), who jumps from Hannah to Annie without Hannah kicking up much of a fuss. In the present, the two women begin to revert to their old ways as they go house-hunting, and they run into some strange people, like the coked-out Mr. Evans (Andy Serkis, best known for his work in the Lord of the Rings films as Gollum). But at one flat the real estate agent is Adrian, who doesn't remember them and is now married with a child. This then leads to a string of unintentional, almost dreamlike encounters with people from the past, including an old roommate and Ricky. Following the breakthrough success of 1993's Naked and 1996's Best Picture nominated Secrets and Lies, Mike Leigh's 1997 Career Girls may come off as slight, and yet all the things that make it small are what make it worthwhile. Were this in the hands of another filmmaker, there might be some emotional crescendos involving the girls and perhaps buried feelings about Adrian, or some sort of emotional blowout to kick up the dust. But Leigh smoothly avoids such obvious histrionics for a portrait of how old friends interact, and the changes and similarities in character that remain after the college years. As such there's a mellowed rhythm to the piece — it's more about nostalgia, regret, and the bonds of friendship that can put two people at ease after a six-year absence. As with all of Mike Leigh's films, the actors are wonderful, with the late Katrin Cartlidge a standout. Playing the exact opposite of her character from Naked, here she asserts herself as a dominant and witty performer. Indeed, watching the film is a melancholy reminder of Cartlidge's all-too-early passing in 2002. Fox presents Career Girls in anamorphic widescreen (185:1) with Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.
—DSH



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