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  Car Trouble Compromising Positions
Year: 1986
Director: David Green
Stars: Julie Walters, Ian Charleson, Vincent Riotta, Stratford Johns, Hazel O'Connor, Dave Hill, Anthony O'Donnell, Vanessa Knox-Mawer, Roger Hume, Veronica Clifford, Laurence Harrington, John Blundell, Jeff Hall, Roy Barraclough, Sheila Bernette, Haydn Gwynne
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 1 vote)
Review: Having gone out for a meal, married couple Gerald (Ian Charleson) and Jacqueline (Julie Walters) Spong are driving home through the rain that evening, having noted their trusty Citroen 2CV has been playing up lately, when he notices an E-Type Jaguar in the lot of a car sales business. It's precisely the car Gerald wants, but his wife dismisses it as a mere "penis substitute" and pooh-poohs his dreams of owning it, yet he will not be put off. Therefore soon after he decides to take the Citroen in for a service at that car sales, not letting Jacqueline know what he actually plans to do...

One of the worst reviewed British comedies of the eighties, Car Trouble may be largely forgotten now but it did make an impression on the hardy few who sat through it. Apparently hoping to mine the same audience as the one who had shown up for the likes of Rita, Sue and Bob Too, where that had bite as well as bawdy humour this little item simply took a rude urban myth and crafted a plot around it in the form of a chapter of accidents, an escalating series of personal disasters for the central couple concerned. That myth was the one about the couple having an affair who become locked in the car of the husband.

Though not because they've lost their keys, more because something unlikely has occurred to them sexually which sees their illicit union wind up as altogether more uncomfortable, not merely morally but physically. You wouldn't have thought that was much to hang a whole movie around, and on watching this that impression would be judged correct, so what the filmmakers also did was take great satisfaction in systematically destroying the car of the title - not the 2CV, the Jag. With that in mind, even fans of motoring would find this a painful business as the classic vehicle was dismantled for the purposes of humour before their very eyes, what a waste, they would lament.

Well, I say humour, there wasn't one decent laugh in the whole ninety minutes it took to laboriously get from A to B, that in spite of a talented cast who included singer Hazel O'Connor and TV comic actor Roy Barraclough. The main issue you would have with this would be the script which left the actors all at sea, or perhaps up in the air would be more apt considering Gerald has a job as an air traffic controller and Jacqueline used to be a stewardess before she retired on getting married. The target would appear to be the middle classes, yet while Mike Leigh could skewer their pretensions with a mixture of compassion and hard-edged lucidity, the makers of this had no such aptitude; beware of films where the creators don't like their characters.

In light of what goes on in Car Trouble, it would appear they had a real grudge against the hapless Gerald and his duplicitous wife as her protests against him spending money on the Jaguar erupt into a full on argument, then a falling out, but he will not be swayed. What happens then is the plot's way of reaching the urban myth part, as Gerald storms out to work, planning to ask his colleagues back for a spin in his latest purchase, then Jacqueline has an excuse to go out and buy something for their dinner but uses the keys to the new car. In lazy women drivers stereotyping she cannot guide the vehicle too well, meets the salesman (Vincent Riotta) who she took a fancy to, and before you know it she and he are engaging in sexual congress out in the local woods, inside the motor. Then they get stuck, and the mayhem attains bemusing levels of hysteria, ending with Gerald destroying their house and trying to crash the jet he believes his wife is on. Hilarious? No, not exactly. Not at all. Music by Trevor Bastow.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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