Elephant Juice

dir Sam Miller scr Amy Jenkins
with Sean Gallagher, Emmanuelle Beart, Daniel Lapaine, Daniela Nardini, Kimberly Williams, Mark Strong, Lennie James, Lee Williams, Kate Gartside, Rebecca R Palmer, James Thornton, Tim Harris
FilmFour 99/UK 2 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
It was written by the creator of This Life, so it's hardly a surprise that Elephant Juice feels like a TV series chopped down into a feature film. Yes, it has Jenkins' trademark dialogue, crackling with real life humour and prickly characters. And it also has a terrific performance from This Life's Nardini. But after a sharp start, the film simply can't find anywhere to go. And without another episode next week it all feels rather pointless.

Basically we have four couples, all about age 30, buzzing around London trying to sort out their relationships. The central character is Billy (Gallagher), a lonely heart who finds a cute American girl (Williams) with lots of baggage. Jules and Will (Beart and Lapaine) are planning to get married, even though Jules is troubled by several things and Will doesn't take vows very seriously. Daphne and Frank (Nardini and Strong) are a match made in cyberspace--and they seem to have nothing in common. And Graham (James) is struggling to keep up with his hip, coke-snorting boyfriend George (Williams).

These are interesting characters (all well-played), and there are some nice examinations of relational awkwardness, but the overall plot is fragmented and without any sense of direction. Important information is skipped over, and the "surprises" aren't terribly surprising. The witty, gritty edginess at the beginning just slowly fades into a perplexing series of disjointed scenes that never let the characters develop beyond the obvious mechanisms of the screenplay. It needed more time and depth to turn these people and situations into something we could latch on to.

[18--adult themes and situations, language] 10.Sep.00
UK release 22.Sep.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall