NEW FILMS

THE GIRL WITH BRAINS IN HER FEET

(15) HHH

Director: Roberto Bangura

Starring: Joanna Ward, John Thompson

If you believe what you see in The Girl with Brains in Her Feet, then Leicester was the most oversexed city in England at the start of the 1970s. No wonder the film's teenage heroine Jack, (Joanna Ward), is in such a tizzy with her hormones - at just 13 years old, she has to contend with an English teacher who reads the raciest passages of Lady Chatterley's Lover aloud to his class in hushed, seductive tones, and an art tutor who unveils a baby-oiled Adonis as the new life drawing project. This air of overkill could be a deliberate attempt to curb teenage pregnancy by making sure that the pupils are so bored with sex that they'll automatically choose the chess club over the back of the bike shed.

The film is a jaunty if unoriginal take on the rites-of-passage genre, taking its cue particularly from P'Tang Yang Kipperbang, while cashing in on the current 1970s revival (The Ice Storm, Boogie Nights, the forthcoming Velvet Goldmine). It's brightened by a lively script from Jo Hodges and a star-spangled performance by Joanna Ward. This young actress sparkles - she has joyous bushy bunches of hair like cheerleaders' pom-poms, and her face is a blank, nonplussed mask that breaks into a crazy smile at unexpected moments.

The story of Jack's gradual loss of innocence would be largely unexceptional without Hodges' talent for sensitively integrating simmering tensions into her screenplay. Jack is a promising athlete whose chilled-out demeanour frustrates her coach (the wonderful John Thompson from The Fast Show). Taking her aside to urge her to train for an upcoming competition, he says blithely: "You never know, the other team might have some darkies up their sleeve," and Jack chuckles along with him, which might not be notable were she not of mixed-race parentage herself. Jack can't claim to possess a sense of cultural identity, but then she doesn't know she's entitled to one either. Her white mother helpfully introduces exotic elements at the tea-table - an afro comb, and a plate of corn-on-the-cob ("lots of Africans and West Indians like it") - though it can't compensate for her idea of good parenting, which makes Piper Laurie in Carrie look like a pushover.

The Girl with Brains in Her Feet treads familiar territory - but with a spring in its step. Out of the blue, the director Roberto Bangura conjures moments of magical tenderness which can catch you off guard; I liked the echo of The Wizard of Oz in the scene where Jack tries on her snazzy red running-shoes and clicks her heels, but Bangura's neatest trick is to time the shot of Jack unzipping a classmate's trousers with the wailing siren which heralds the start of "Blockbuster" by The Sweet. Doesn't everyone hear a siren the first time they yield to temptation? Or is it just in Leicester?

THE APOSTLE

(12) HHH

Director: Robert Duvall

Starring: Robert Duvall, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Bob Thornton

Robert Duvall's direction is admirably elegant and cool, but his performance as the preacher obsessed with and possessed by God is outstanding for all the opposite reasons. Duvall plunges into the role of Sonny in the same way that Sonny is engulfed by his religion, and the effect is terrifying and entrancing all at once. Sonny's temper, which he exercises in a desperate attempt to keep hold of the wife who doesn't love him, provides his downfall; he skips town to start a new church elsewhere but the threat of the police arriving to drag him from God's work is constantly present. What's most fascinating about the picture is that Duvall the writer-director rejects the kind of feverish identification usually associated with such subjects, whether it's Privilege or Tommy or The Mosquito Coast. Instead, he observes the hysteria from a distance, and consistently refuses to manipulate his audience.

A THOUSAND ACRES

(15) H

Director: Jocelyn Moorhouse

Starring: Jessica Lange, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jason Robards

When a crotchety but revered farmer (Jason Robards) decides to divide up his land between his three daughters, he is aghast that the youngest (Jennifer Jason Leigh) should question his actions, and promptly excludes her from proceedings - not because it's a plausible reaction, but rather because A Thousand Acres has King Lear as its template. Jessica Lange and Michelle Pfeiffer get to do a lot of crying and bonding, but their talents are wasted, and the film's final bid for tear-jerker status is cold and calculated.

THE BIG SWAP

(18) H

Director: Niall Johnson

Starring: Mark Adams, Sorcha Brooks

Taking off from the key party in The Ice Storm, this follows a group of five couples whose lives disintegrate when they start swapping partners. A drab, unconvincing and preachy drama played out against Sunday supplement locations.

SOUL FOOD

(15) H

Director: George Tillman Jn

Starring: Vanessa L Williams, Vivica A Fox, Nia Long

A black version of Parenthood, with all the attendant moralising, sentimentality and studied eccentricity which that implies. Only the marvellously sassy Mekhi Phifer (Clockers) emerges with dignity intact.

THE GRASS HARP

(PG) H

Director: Charles Matthau

Starring: Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, Sissy Spacek

An adaptation of Truman Capote's novel about the lives and loves that intersect in a southern American town in the 1940s. Unfortunately, it plays rather drably, like an humdrum episode of The Waltons. A fine cast has been assembled to little effect, and Charles Matthau gets unimpressive results from directing his father, Walter.

STIFF UPPER LIPS

(15) HHH

Director: Gary Sinyor

Starring: Peter Ustinov, Prunella Scales, Timothy West

Spoof of Merchant/Ivory movies from one of the talents responsible for Leon the Pig Farmer.

Ryan Gilbey

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent