Thursday, January 8, 2015

Take a Girl Like You (1970)

          Former child star Hayley Mills continued her transition to grown-up roles with this tedious but watchable sex comedy from Great Britain, adapted quite loosely from a novel by Kingsley Amis. Mills plays Jenny, a young schoolteacher who moves from a small town to a larger city and fends off the advances of various lascivious men. Infused with lots of swinging-’60s attitudes, the picture explores the difficulties that Jenny faces as a virgin in a sexually permissive milieu. Jenny’s celibacy causes special frustration for Patrick (Oliver Reed), an experienced Casanova who takes Jenny on a few chaste dates and then becomes obsessed with her after she draws the line at groping and kissing. Meanwhile, Jenny has fun becoming part of Patrick’s social circle, because he’s friendly with cosmopolitan folks including Julian (Noel Harrison), a member of the upper class who throws fabulous parties at his estate even though he’s on the verge of losing the place for tax reasons.
          Although Take a Girl Like You fails to generate much in the way of laughter, perhaps because time has coarsened the idea of a rake browbeating a kind young woman into surrendering her chastity, the debate about principles that Jenny and Patrick have at various intervals throughout the film is relatively interesting. Jenny takes the stance that she needn’t explain herself, and that peer pressure isn’t reason enough to defy the tenets of her upbringing. Patrick argues the opposite perspective, saying that Jenny’s mired in outdated mores and that holding out for love and marriage inhibits the natural course of romantic relationships.
          Had Take a Girl Like You been executed with more nuance, and perhaps even cast differently, it could become a worthwhile exploration of gender differences during a time of sweeping social change. Alas, the script is intelligent but repetitive, and the contrast between wholesome Mills and hulking Reed is distracting. She’s so innocent and sweet that she seems like an angel, and he’s so dark and intense that he seems like a predator. Mills tries mightily to come across like a full-grown woman, and nearly succeeds, but Reed’s energy is overwhelmingly dangerous and masculine. The chirpy theme song by the Foundations and the peppy underscore contribute further tonal dissonance, as if the whole thing is a lark—when it fact it plays out more like a serious character study, complete with a bleak and deeply unsatisfying climax.

Take a Girl Like You: FUNKY

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