Tuesday, April 07, 2009

4/5/09: A Taste of Honey (1961)

Released the year I was born, A Taste of Honey was directed by Tony Richardson, who would go on to win an Oscar for Tom Jones a couple of years later. This is a much different kind of film—one of those "kitchen sink" dramas that focus on working-class people of Britain, and like a couple of others in British Sixties Week, A Taste of Honey is also about an unwanted pregnancy.

Based on a play by Shelagh Delaney, the film focuses on Jo (Rita Tushingham), a homely 17-year-old, is being brought up by her somewhat promiscuous mother (Dora Bryan, in a role Angela Lansbury played on Broadway). Jo meets a black sailor, sleeps with him, and learns she's pregnant after the sailor goes off to sea. When Mom gets married, Jo gets her own flat, which she later shares with a sexually confused boy named Geoffrey (Murray Melvin). The film chronicles their numerous spats, jealousies, pent-up resentments and flat-out arguments as insults are hurled and feelings are wounded. The film presents us with a cast of basically unlikable characters that I have a very difficult time caring about. Ugly-duckling Jo ought to evoke a margin of sympathy, but she's as rude and condescending to her mum as her mum is to her. The male characters weren't much to hang your hat on either. It's a glum affair throughout, the stark black-and-white intensifying the rather grimy, drab look of Manchester at this time period. It would have been nice if the characters could learn from their mistakes, or even each others' mistakes, but there are no happy endings for anybody here, and the overall theme seems to be that we are doomed to repeat the blunders from the past. I suspect A Taste of Honey would have worked better as a play for me; as a film, it's very sad without being remotely moving. Rating: 2/5.

Overall, British Sixties Week turned out to be a colossal disappointment! But at least there were Saturday Night and Sunday Morning and Georgy Girl.

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