Monday, December 13, 2010

Grown-Ups (Mike Leigh) - 1980

Grown-Ups is another Mike Leigh TV play. During the 70s and 80s, the BBC aired two different TV series of plays/films called BBC2 Playhouse and Play for Today. Most of the TV plays Leigh created were part of the Play for Today series. Grown-Ups is the only one of Leigh's films to be part of the BBC2 Playhouse series. Knowing this going in, I thought Grown-Ups may play a bit differently than the previous films. And, in a way, there is a difference. Grown-Ups feels more like a feature length film, where the Play for Today films feel much more like TV movies.

Grown-Ups tells the story of a couple who have just purchased their first home and are starting to settle into the space. The married couple, Mandy and Dick, are played by Leslie Manville and Phillip Davis. Manville is a Leigh regular (All or Nothing, Topsy-Turvy, and Another Year). In Grown-Ups, Manville portrays a quiet wife to the controlling husband, Davis. Phillip Davis plays his character with enough meanness and emptiness to still make his character likeable.

But, neither of these characters are the stars of the film. The film belongs to the wonderful Brenda Blethyn. Belthyn was the star of Leigh's spectacular Secrets & Lies, and seems to have taken some of the inspiration for the Secrets & Lies character from her role as Gloria in this film. Gloria is nervous, scared, and can't stand silence. Her high pitched voice is constantly yapping. The shake to her voice makes her seem so lost and innocent. She's never hurtful, but she's always there. This begins to wear on Gloria's sister, Manville, and the husband, Davis.

This could very much be the British version of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. A lot drier, of course. The film isn't quite as funny as some reviews claim. There is a humor, but much more a sadness. The characters are all kind of trapped. They want to escape, even talk about something a little better... they just can't imagine how anything else is possible. So they just keep going on in their day to day. There is a wonderful scene where we see the three main characters all at their jobs. They just kind of move like robots from one task to another. It is a beautiful way for Leigh to express how stifled these characters feel.

While Abigail's Party may be the strongest of Leigh's plays for TV, I may enjoy Grown-Ups a little more. Where Abigail's Party felt so much like a stage production (making the audience aware of its intent), Grown-Ups isn't so obvious with its intent.


1 comment:

  1. Hey, just came across your review while looking around on Google. I'm a big Leigh fan and I've been catching up with his TV stuff slowly. Just watched Grown Ups last night... wow! I'd agree with you, prefer it slightly to Abigail's party for the reasons you mentioned. Great review :)