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  Honest England Swings Like A Pendulum Do
Year: 2000
Director: David A. Stewart
Stars: Nicole Appleton, Peter Facinelli, Natalie Appleton, Melanie Blatt, Jonathan Cake, James Cosmo, Annette Badland, Corin Redgrave, Sean Gilder, Matt Bardock, Paul Rider, Lynn Ferguson, Tony Maudsley, Sam Kelly, Willie Ross, Rolf Saxon, Derek Deadman
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Swinging London in the late sixties, and the Chase sisters - Gerry (Nicole Appleton), Mandy (Natalie Appleton) and Jo (Melanie Blatt) - have hit upon an idea to make money: they dress up as men and commit robberies on the establishments of local criminal types, reasoning that no one will be too bothered if these already wealthy citizens lose some of their cash. Their latest plan is to rob the offices of this underground magazine, Zero, where owner Andrew Pryce-Stevens (Jonathan Cake) keeps a stash of jewels...

But when Gerry visits it to check the place out and use her photographic memory, she meets one of the writers, Daniel (Peter Facinelli), not knowing there will soon be a strong connection between them. The fact that this memory is represented by her staring at something and hearing a camera shutter sound effect on the soundtrack, just like Barbara Windsor in Carry On Spying, may give some indication of the level of wit we were dealing with - it was supposed to be funny, at least you suspect that was the case, but actually it was simply ridiculous. There would have been more people who noticed that, except Honest was a significant flop.

That was what most of the publicity this received was about rather than the novelty of the stars being three quarters of pop group All Saints, Shaznay Lewis having excused herself because she didn't think she could pass as the sister of the other three. And not because she realised this movie would be a complete dog, presumably, but she suffered for it anyway as the media turned against the girls when this was released, and you could argue that they never recovered their status (Natalie's humiliating appearance on reality show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! not helping much either) as cool pop divas with the public.

This was the brainchild of Eurythmics man David A. Stewart, and if anything would have cured his Paradise Syndrome it was the scathing reaction to his directorial debut, as for reasons best known to himself he opted to make that rarest of creatures, a British gangster movie, in a landscape of national moviemaking infested with them. The selling point here was as a nostalgia piece as well, so Stewart and screenwriters Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais did their best to recreate the atmosphere of the time, but unfortunately they did it in the most thumpingly obvious manner possible, so the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll connected to the myth of what the decade was like were well to the fore here.

To their credit, they did try to find more prosaic elements, but such kitchen sinkery was in no way smoothly integrated with the flash and dazzle, and no amount of the Appletons putting on wavering Cockney accents would assist that - hearing Nicole rhapsodising over "Mawfa Weeves an' ver Vandewas" being just one instance of cringemaking dialogue. It was she who essentially took the lead, romancing Facinelli's supposedly loveably buttoned down writer, as the other two sisters got into hot water thanks to Mandy being a bit off 'er 'ead, yet another contrivance to have it look as if something was happening when in fact you'll have noticed not much was. The depiction of independent womanhood in a culture awakening to that was not such a bad idea, but when most male viewers would be hoping to see the stars in a state of undress (Stewart obliged them) then it all had a hollow sound. When wasn't boring, then all that posing was embarrassing - they should have gone for the traditional pop star vehicle instead. Spiceworld, say. Music by Stewart.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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