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  Take a Girl Like You I Believe In A Thing Called Love
Year: 1970
Director: Jonathan Miller
Stars: Hayley Mills, Oliver Reed, Noel Harrison, John Bird, Sheila Hancock, Aimi MacDonald, Geraldine Sherman, Ronald Lacey, John Fortune, Imogen Hassall, Pippa Steel, Penelope Keith, Nicholas Courtney, George Woodbridge, Jimmy Gardner, Nerys Hughes
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jenny Bunn (Hayley Mills) is a schoolteacher from the north of England who has travelled down to the south to accept a post there. She arrives at the station and takes a taxi to her lodgings, where she is greeted by her new landlord, the prospective Labour candidate in the upcoming election Dick Thompson (John Bird). She barely has time to say hello to her fellow lodger Anna (Geraldine Sherman) before she rushes out the door, but as luck would have it for Patrick Standish (Oliver Reed), Anna's casual boyfriend, he turns up in time to meet Jenny. He is interested in her - but is she interested in him?

George Melly only wrote two scripts for the big screen, and one of them happened to to be the satirical Swinging London cult classic Smashing Time, but what of the much-neglected other effort, Take a Girl Like You? It was based on the novel by Kingsley Amis, and represented a view that was similarly unconvinced by the idea that this modern world was all it was cracked up to be, only here it was the sexual mores of the time that were being held up for scrutiny.

Jenny, you see, is a virgin and she's such a nice girl that she becomes the objective to conquer of almost every male character in the film. Even though this was made in 1970 and censorship was being relaxed, this is not an explicit film, so there's no nudity and in that terribly British manner the subject is more talked about than actually carried out, but this concentration on the characters' emotions makes for something more interesting than the kind of sex comedy that would grow to dominate the United Kingdom's cinematic landscape in the seventies.

So there's no smirking here, as we know that when Jenny finally relents a little of her innocence will be lost, no matter which of the males claim the "prize". Actually, maybe a lot of her innocence will be lost, because the only one really suitable for her is Patrick, a design lecturer who could well do with some of her morals. Even though he is a decent enough bloke, all this sleeping around he is used to has corrupted him in a way, so when he gets Jenny back to his place one evening he is taken aback that she does not wish to jump into bed with him. She wants to wait until she's in love with someone before she gives in, and she is not sure about Patrick.

To his credit, he doesn't force her, in fact the only man who does step over the line is a drunken Dick although his shrewish wife Martha (Sheila Hancock) puts a stop to his advances. Patrick finds something surprising has happened: almost unthinkably, he has fallen for Jenny to the extent that even when one woman ("the lovely" Aimi Macdonald) throws herself at him he cannot reciprocate for thinking about her. Yet all that laddishness is not something he can give up, as he discovers to his cost. Take a Girl Like You has a curious tone, protective of Jenny but clear-eyed enough to see that she is only human and cannot stay chaste forever; mix in some light comedy and a melancholy ending and you have a film that, while not great, has stayed in the minds of those who have seen it. It makes you go "Aw..." as it questions the benefits of a sexually liberated society where love will still complicate matters. Music by Stanley Myers.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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