Film: Career Girls pg rating Year: 1997
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Country: UK Genre: Drama
Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Katrin Cartlidge, Lynda Steadman, Mark Benton, Andy Serkis

Also see our Guide to Mike Leigh, or visit our Mike Leigh UK or Mike Leigh US stores, or our reviews of other Mike Leigh films Bleak Moments, High Hopes, Life Is Sweet, Naked and Secrets and Lies.

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Career Girls Synopsis - Career Girls is set in London during the late nineties but also in flashbacks to the mid eighties. The story centres Annie, who agrees to go back down to London on a bank holiday weekend to meet up with her old friend Hannah. They both reminisce about the time in their early twenties when they were at university and shared a flat together. Now approaching their thirties they consider to what extent their lives have moved on and how they have changed. They also check out some of their old haunts and chance upon some old faces along the way.

Review of Career Girls - Career Girls was Mike Leigh's follow up to Secret and Lies (which had been a huge hit amongst the critics). In my opinion this is much more successful as a film than Secrets and Lies. All three of the main characters adapt well to what is required in the process of making a Mike Leigh film (Katrin Cartlidge had already starred in Mike Leigh's film naked) and give the kind of performances you want to see in character acting (as opposed to some caricature acting by some actors that appear in some of Mike Leigh's films). The main premise of the story is very interesting and works well, but as with much of Mike Leigh's work there is a flaw that has a negative impact on the film. The flaw at work here is in the fact that all of the main characters who were a part of their life at university have contrived separately and coincidentally to be in London on that Bank Holiday weekend, and all are bumped into during the course of the weekend. This contrivance is absolutely unbelievable, and to an extent takes the gloss of an otherwise amazing film. Given the unique way Mike Leigh works by setting up situations for the cast to improvise and then rewriting the script based on the casts improvisation (a method which gives his films significant strength but also seems to make flaws in plot more likely) it is rather peculiar that he couldn't have come up with a more remotely believable contrivance (i.e. a reunion etc). Nevertheless this is a brilliant film well worth seeing (especially if you can suspend your disbelief).
The reasons I recommend Career Girls are: 1. Terrific actors playing the three major roles. 2. A good basic story with some terrific dialogue. 3. A very interesting study into the nature of looking back and reflecting upon how the past shapes the future.