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

News
Lois Pryce... Life Without a Postcode. Lois lives on a boat with her husband.. Registering to vote in the election has prooved to be very difficult without a fixed residential post code. (David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Sport
Steven Fletcher scores the second goal for Scotland
cricketBut they have to bounce back to beat Gibraltar in Euro 2016 qualifier
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

    £6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

    £12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

    Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

    £32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

    Day In a Page

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing