A couple of months ago I signed up to join the Girl in the Cafe tour which is a project set up by Ingrid to spread the word about the film The Girl in the Cafe (starring Billy Nighy and Kelly MacDonald and written by Richard Curtis). To join the tour you just sign up at the website and, in time, a copy of the film will be sent to you. You then watch it, review it on your blog if you have one and then send it on to the next person.
So, always a nosey mare, I signed up because I wanted to find out what was so special about the film Ingrid wanted everyone to watch.
I received it a little while ago (sorry Ingrid) and finally sat down to watch it tonight. I didn't know a huge deal about it before I put it on apart from the fact it was about a relationship and about the G8 summit. Huh? I thought. How can that work? If I'm 100% honest it doesn't work brilliantly. Nighy and MacDonald are excellent and the way they stumble around each other, both searching for a salve to their particular loneliness, is beautifully portrayed. They're an unlikely match on the surface and their awkwardness is palpable but you can't help but root for them.
That's one side of the film. The other side is the political message - the fact that, according to the film, Britain was pushing action on the Millennium Goal (to bring an end to world poverty) at the G8 summit in Reykjavik. The film was made in conjunction with the Make Poverty History campaign and you can tell that Richard Curtis did his best to introduce the issue with a subtle hand but there were several moments in the film where it felt shoe-horned in and clunky. I often felt like I was watching a publication information skit during a Live8 or Comic Relief event.
There were other moments when the interchange between MacDonald's character Gina and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others later on in the film (I won't spoil it) felt heavily scripted rather than natural (and, I hate to admit, many of them were hugely cringeworthy). I did also wonder whether or not the British contingent would be quite so influenced by the opinion of one member of the public. Overall this wasn't a film you could lose yourself in because, as intriguing as the relationship between MacDonald and Nighy was, the political message was so overt it felt a little as though it was being flashed across the screen. (Thinking about it I'm sure that was point but I still felt it could have been done a little more subtly)
That said the film did redeem itself in the final scene between Gina and Lawrence (Nighy's character) and it was really quite touching.
The Girl in the Cafe attempted something big and brave and, while it might not rank in my top ten films ever, it did succeed in its mission to inform and enlighten. Whereas before, I'm ashamed to admit, I was largely ignorant about what the G8 summit was actually about, I am now somewhat enlightened. I was also very touched by the Nelson Mandella quote at the end of the film. In just two sentences it powerfully sums up the central message of the entire film.
If you'd like to sign up (for free) to see this film go along to Girl in the Cafe tour and send Ingrid an email.