DIRECTED BY

Silvio Narizzano

 

STARRING

Lynn Redgrave

Alan Bates

Charlotte Rampling

James Mason

Bill Owen

Clare Kelly

 

RATED

NR

 

RELEASED IN

1966

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 39 Mins.

Georgy Girl September 21, 2018  

performance, as the eponymous Georgy, a 22-year-old Londoner. Georgy, though as spirited as a putative popular girl, is a grown-up wallflower. She is a little rotund, dresses sloppily, prefers the company of children, has never had a boyfriend, and is a virgin.

 

Her deflowering, and first relationship, will come about in Georgy Girl. But the twists here are that neither experience has a gloriously cinematic edge and that Georgy’s not such a comprehensively helpless protagonist. In the tradition of other British dramas of the era, from kitchen-sink examples like The L-Shaped Room (1962) and Alfie (1966), the movie lays the foundation for what we think will support a trite, seen-it-all-before house of a story. But it unfolds with naturalistic, sometimes-punishing flair.

 

In Georgy Girl, Georgy navigates romantic relationships with two men. Neither is right for her. One of the romances is with Jos (Alan Bates), the jaunty but ultimately juvenile boyfriend of her contemptuous, beautiful flatmate, Meredith (Charlotte Rampling). The other one, sort of, is with her parents’ wealthy, 49-year-old dandy of an employer (James Mason), who has a wife at home but would be more than happy to have Georgy as his sugar baby.

 

I suppose Georgy Girl’s biggest accomplishment is sucking a story with which we think we’re familiar dry. For most of its first and middle acts, I was convinced that Georgy would get together — maybe even in a happily-ever-after type of fashion in spite of the gloom and doom surrounding her — with Jos. But partway through the movie, when the vitriolic Meredith finds out she’s pregnant and ropes her strung-along lover into marriage, this is tangled.

 

Which brings out the truth that none of these characters, compelling as they are, are particularly likable. Such was obvious from the first time we met Meredith, a violinist who’s great at indulging her material pleasures and nothing else. It was maybe even unsaid that Jos was terrible, too — throughout the feature, the man proves, time and time again, that he has a penchant for transforming into a family photographer trying to get a crying kid to smile when someone readies themselves to vulnerably open up to him.

 

The utmost surprise is that Georgy, whom we’re still fond of even when she really blows it, is about (but not quite) as self-serving as the individuals we at first denounce for treating her so badly. Consider that she still romances Jos after he marries and impregnates her purported best friend. Or that, after she somehow finds the baby in her care, she decides to marry a rich man for the sake of comfort, not love. Meddling with a relationship, no matter how mussed it is, shuns sympathy, as does bringing up a kid in a home you know’s not going to be happy.

 

Georgy Girl’s cynicism would go down easily, possibly even with an invigorating underlining, if these characters were credibly contradictory. With the exception of the protagonist, who feels plausible, the players comprising the movie are animated paper dolls fulfilling types. Jos is an exhausting, loud-mouthed jester, Mason a sleazy old man. Worst of all is the Meredith character: Although Rampling’s great as this tigress, the part requires her to be so operatically selfish — evil, almost — that Meredith seems less a person and more an excuse of a clunky narrative tool. Georgy may not make the best of decisions, but at least she’s not a viper like Meredith, the film subtly says.

 

Upon its October, 1966 release, Georgy Girl was a bonafide critical and commercial hit, further popularized when it received four Oscar nods. (No gold was taken home.) Now that its same brand of realism-prioritizing filmmaking’s commonplace, and done better, a viewing’s not as necessary as it used to be. But I do recommend listening to its title song: it’s the best heroine-bashing tune since The Sound of Music’s (1965) ruthless “Maria.” C+

 

T

he trope of the ugly duckling who turns into a beautiful swan is subverted in Georgy Girl (1966), a black-and-white, Swinging London-set comedy-drama from 1966. Trouble is is that the subversion is bleak, not shiny: the film’s uninterested in actualizing the idea that its central ugly duckling is just fine the way she is, contrary to the foreshadowing. The feature’s more misanthropic than that.

 

The movie stars Lynn Redgrave, giving an exquisitely expressive

James Mason and Lynn Redgrave in 1966's "Georgy Girl."