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Stella Does Tricks
cast: Kelly Macdonald, James Bolam, Hans Matheson, Ewan Stewart, and Andy Serkis

director: Coky Giedroyc

95 minutes (18) 2004
Fremantle DVD Region 0 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Christopher Teague
Britain is capable - more than capable really - of making great films: we have the acting talent; we have superb technicians, and a history of filmmaking that is second to none. Unfortunately, Stella Does Tricks is not part of that history. Despite an excellent performance from Kelly Macdonald as the eponymous Stella, and cast against type James Bolam, this is sub-Ken Loach social realism made by people who have an agenda, a message to say - and not to make a film, a motion picture. Yes, we know teenage prostitution exists, that these are hard impoverished times, but do you really need to lay it on so thickly?

The script by A.L. Kennedy is littered with expletives, and so thoroughly Glaswegian you'll need subtitles to understand what Ms Macdonald and the other Scottish actors say. Expletives don't annoy me, but effing this and effing that so becomes tiresome - apparently, less is more. It is also not a necessarily well-written script, and should really have gone through some major re-writing. Or even a better writer.

The direction by Giedroyc is competent at best, but again she is hampered with a script that has very little going for it. The cinematography captures the dreariness of Glasgow well, which again adds another layer of despondency that the film doesn't need; even the various flashback/ fantasy sequences seem ill thought out, at odds with the mood of the picture. Everyone involved probably thought they were making the next Trainspotting, which had the social realism, but it was juxtaposed with humour that worked tremendously well, and Danny Boyle actually turned the material into a far better film.

Apart from a winning performance from Kelly Macdonald, the only other redeeming feature, if rather flippantly, is James Bolam receiving a hand-job: you don't often see that, and he never did on The Likely Lads.

Overall, hardly worth the effort, but an interesting footnote in the careers of Macdonald, and Giedroyc - who went to direct episodes of the underrated Murder In Mind and the pretty damn good Blackpool.
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