Friday, April 10, 2009
A real oddity from 1970, Take a Girl Like You would have probably have all but been lost in time right now were it not for its two lead actors, the surprisingly potent combination of Oliver Reed and Haley Mills.
Directed by former member of the Britain’s legendary Beyond The Fringe comedy team, Jonathan Miller, from a script by musician George Melly, Take a Girl Like You never finds a proper balance between cheap romantic comedy and broad satire throughout its running time but it’s never boring. Focusing on an aging swinger's obsessive yearnings to take away the virginity of a much younger girl who has recently moved into an apartment near his, Take a Girl Like You's plot could easily have been filmed several years before as a swinging and yet innocent teen movie, or a few years later as a hard sexploitation flick. Miller never successfully gets across what exactly it is that he is attempting though, and for the most part Take a Girl Like You is an extremely limp romp only brought to life by Reed and Mills, who are frankly much better than the material they are offered here.
Take a Girl Like You was adapted from a novel by Kingsley Amis and filmed in the early part of 1970 in and around Slough, Berkshire, England. Financed by Albion Films and eventually released by Columbia to a deservedly muted response, Take a Girl Like You manages to feel awkward throughout and would have no doubt worked better a few years before or several years after.
Miller’s film (one of just a handful of theatrical credits for him as director) is certainly not lacking in the talent department. Featuring a cast of familiar British faces (everyone from Noel Harrison to Imogen Hassall is on hand) and a bevy of talented behind the scenes artists (including composer Stanley Myers and BAFTA nominated cinematographer Dick Bush), Take a Girl Like Me is a surprisingly tired production considering the talent involved. Nowhere is this talent more evident than the two leads, both of whom are so captivating that they almost make the film worth seeking out.
The much missed Oliver Reed was at his peak in 1970 and Take a Girl Like You finds itself sandwiched between the astonishing Ken Russell productions Reed starred in, Women in Love (1969) and The Devils (1971). Placed against two such towering pictures makes Take a Girl Like You look even more minuscule, but Reed is quite extraordinary in the film and manages to make what should be a thoroughly unlikable character quite charming.
Even better is pretty 24-year-old Haley Mills, who manages a performance that is both subtle and in, its own way, very moving. Several years past the Disney productions that had made her a household name, Mills is so good here that it is a shame that the script lets her down at nearly every turn. Had she been given a script more worthy of her talents at this point, the career of Haley Mills as an adult might have been a much different story than it turned out to be.
The film hints at substance occasionally, specifically with a minor sub plot involving the Labor Party that is eventually all but dropped, but more than anything else it is a lightweight production made by some heavyweight talent. The film is finally only recommended to Reed and Mills completists, although Myer's lovely score would be worth searching out for any film-music lover. My copy comes from an old telecast, but I have been told that a British DVD is in the works or already available for those interested.