ANGUS, THONGS AND PERFECT SNOGGING
UK, 2008, 100 minutes, Colour.
Georgia Groome, Aaron Johnson, Karen Taylor, Alan Davies, Eleanor Tomlinson, Georgia Henshaw, Manjeeven Grewal, Kimberly Nixon, Sean Bourke.
Directed by Gurinder Chadha.
At least the title gets one’s attention. Angus is a cat. A catty girl wears thongs. And, perfect snogging is a 14 year old girl’s idea of a dream kiss.
Actually, the centre of the film is a 14 year old girl who will be fifteen before the final credits. For a fairer review of this film, it would be best to have an interactive discussion between girls of this age and their parents or grandparents. Meanwhile, this review will have to do.
This is a genial British film from the director of Bend it Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice. Though born in Kenya, Gurinder Chadha grew up in London. This time she goes further afield than London, down to Sussex, Eastbourne and Brighton. While the director said she wanted to make a film like those of John Hughes (and she specified Sixteen Candles) and it is reminiscent of many American films about teenage girls, this one is firmly British in accent, vocabulary, mood and family portrait.
It should also be said that it is a ‘nice’ kind of comedy with an air of innocence, where perfect snogging is the ultimate in relationships between the sexes.
Georgia Groome, as Georgia Nicolson, has a strong personality and keeps us interested in her travails, the young adolescent girl preoccupations. She has nice parents but thinks they are very old hat and is embarrassed when they kiss, snog, in front of her. Her baby sister is a born mischief-maker. Luckily, she has three friends (and Angus, a really odd cat) that she can discuss matters of moment with, her worries, especially about getting a boyfriend. The screenplay by Gurinder Chadha and her husband Paul Mayeda Berges is full of little touches that indicate just how young and inexperienced the girls are (which may be reassuring to parents). When a boy says that he will see her later, there is an intensely serious discussion about what ‘later’ really means and how long.
Poor Georgia is into contriving situations, especially when she sees the boy of her dreams with the vain blonde of the school. She also goes to a gawky boy who coaches girls on how to kiss – and he becomes besotted with her. She, meanwhile, is planning, scheming, abetted by three friends. Complications arise when her father is transferred to New Zealand and she worries about the interior decorator who is spending a lot of time in the house and with her mother at Salsa lessons.
Georgia makes some huge mistakes, alienates her friends who accuse her of being selfish. Needless to say, this helps bring her to her senses and a happy ending for all concerned (except the vain blonde).
Based on a series of autobiographical books by Louise Rennison (who grew up in Leeds along way from the sea and the piers of Sussex), this film will probably go over very well indeed with its target audience of 11-15 year old girls and (unless they are in a state of trauma with their own daughters), their parents.
1. A film based on books for teenagers, for teenage girls? Girls identifying with the character? The situations? Boys identifying – or observing?
2. The title, the cat, the girls wearing thongs, developing sexuality, the issue of kissing – all for 14-year-olds?
3. The Eastbourne settings, the town, the sea, the pier, homes, school, socials, the beach, shops and markets? The feel for the town? The musical score?
4. Georgia, a strong presence, the story from her perspective, self-preoccupied, the effect on her, her having to learn?
5. At home, Dad, loving, his job, the offer to go to New Zealand, his accepting? The mother, Georgia comfortable with her? The baby? The sadness of the father being in New Zealand? The party and her turning 15 – the hopes, the plans? Georgia and her response to her parents and their frequent kissing?
6. The tone of the story, Georgia as the stuffed olive, going to the party, the girls in ordinary dresses, her standing out, everybody laughing, Lindsey and her snobbery? Georgia going home, upset, her parents?
7. Her three girlfriends, jazz, the blonde girl, the Indian girl – and her frequent faux pas? But their being together, supporting each other, but Georgia as leader?
8. The interest in boys, seeing Tom and Robbie, the market, their shop, Georgia’s attraction, Robbie’s place in her emotions, Tom and Jazz?
9. Georgia and her plans, utilising jazz? Her love for Angus, pretending to lose him, Robbie and his love for cats, hoping that he would help in the search, his hesitation, his following up? Jazz watching Tom and the sports, finding the cat?
10. Georgia upset at Lindsey, Robbie’s devotion to her? The girls looking through the window with the binoculars, discovering the falsies? Robbie keeping appointments with Lindsey?
11. The problem about Georgia’s party, the cost, the father not wanting a club? The rivalry with Lindsey’s party?
12. Her mother, the presence of the decorator, muscles, the girls admiring him, his going dancing with Georgia’s mother, Georgia’s watching the flirting and interpretation?
13. Georgia going to the office, discussion with the secretary, wanting her dad to return?
14. Jazz meaning well, but blurting out things – and the consequences? Georgia and her being humiliated? Robbie and his plain talk with her?
15. Georgia retiring, her birthday, the cake, the mother promising the party, going to the new club, the crowd of students there? Her discovery that the decorator was gay, his partner present? Robbie and the band? Dad present, back from New Zealand, proud of Georgia’s going to the office? His being promoted?
16. Lindsey, her arrival, the few girls at her party, on stage, the ultimatum to Robbie, the girls pulling out her falsies? Humiliated?
17. Georgia and the lessons learnt, happy at 15, the girlfriends and Robbie and a happy future?