Career Girls (15). A minor film by Mike Leigh standards, this contrived but unfailingly generous examination of friendship suggests that the kinder,

gentler side of the film maker is, for better or worse, here to stay. College mates Hannah (Katrin Cartlidge) and Annie (Lynda Steadman) spend a weekend together and engage in some therapeutic reminiscing, their memories conveniently jogged by the appearance of various long-lost acquaintances. Interposing flashbacks to the late Eighties, Leigh contrasts the quietly reflective pair with their severely neurotic younger versions. Both characters are wonderfully convincing, even if the performances sometimes seem excessively mannered. Few contemporary actresses are anywhere near as compelling as Cartlidge, and she makes the most of some terrifically witty lines.

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion (15). Far less self-conscious than Grosse Point Blank (last year's other Eighties-reunion nostalgia- fest), this exuberant comedy ranks as Hollywood's funniest product since Clueless. The blonde-and-blonder best-friend heroines (Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow) were victimised in high school (one was chubby, the other had

a back brace). Determined to make an impression at their reunion, they tell

everyone they invented Post-Its. Most of the laughs have a deft, absurdist edge to them (director David Mirkin got his start on The Simpsons); the movie's climax - an exquisitely deranged interpretive-dance sequence - is itself a small masterpiece. Kudrow's dimwit persona works better here than it does on Friends, and Sorvino's cluelessly ebullient Romy is, like her helium-voiced hooker in Mighty Aphrodite (and contrary to appearances), an ingenious comic invention.

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