City Slacker

City Slacker


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

Ruthless City high-flyer Amanda (Fiona Gilles) can hear her biological clock ticking loudly. She’s just been told that a fire at a fertility clinic has nixed her best eggs so if she wants to have children, it’s now or never.

Thing is, she’s just bust up with her fellow City-hunting partner Charles (Adrian Lukis) and she’s not keen on losing her hard-won career either. What she needs is a younger man who’s handsome, great with kids and has no professional ambitions whatsoever so he can stay home to look after baby. It could be one of her toughest deals to broker yet, but then along comes slacker Dan (Geoffrey Streatfield), seemingly the perfect candidate. She’s drawn to him immediately, but keeps her conception motives hidden while the jilted Charles still hangs in the wings.

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City Slacker plays its set up for breezy rom-com laughs against the backdrop of a carnivorous corporate banking culture. This means that we don’t see much actual financial dealing take place, just the fallout. There are some heated meetings and we hear some terminology, but the focus here is very much on Amanda’s maternal, professional and romantic dilemmas.

Geoffrey Streatfield’s Dan brings the warmth to (very quickly) melt Amanda’s reserve. It feels like he is less stretched here than in his current episodes of In The Thick of It, but his performance shows that, like Gilles, he can hold the big screen. Elsewhere, Tom Conti brings easy-going maturity as Amanda’s debt-evading father and his beery chums provide the chorus. Matilda Ziegler’s friend offers the best laughs as a married and harried mother of three.

Eyes are mostly on Amanda and it’s refreshing to see both such a bold lead role for a slightly older woman and one that sites her as a successful working professional. Gilles grafts hard onscreen (and off, as producer) to make Amanda seem a rounded person, capable of being both a bitch in the office and someone with more vulnerability when not. Although she’s is an assured, amiable presence, unfortunately she only really has shouty one-notes at work and too often just speaks emotions when at home. When a street, not stock, market trader then chides her unusual perkiness with, “This isn’t Notting Hill, you know!” the difference between City Slacker and the Richard Curtis heights to which it aspires are clear.

Being forced to scale a playground climbing frame is a small visual metaphor for Amanda’s corporate ladder clambering, but it does round off a nice meet-cute with Dan. There’s always, however, her anxious teenage flapping about him and about being a mother, which seems totally at odds to seeing her also as someone who is otherwise in control of every other aspect of her life. This stretches the tension between her two personas too far, but there are still salient points about the difficulty of being a mother and a working woman, reinforced by her father’s past treatment of her mother.

The film wants to sit plum in a sort of zeitgeist that sees the City as a juicy villain of our times and it plays heavily on the dubious or plain wrong actions of those scrabbling to get into the 1 per cent. Fair enough, it’s a big target that audiences will be aware of and well worth a pop at in a genre other than drama (Wall Street, say) or documentary (Enron et al). Yet, the film also comments on working mothers, workplace prejudice against pregnancy, and on how contemporary families might be switching the traditional role of who stays at home. It tones these down by conveniently packaging them up amongst a vilified work environment where people are shown to be either ball-busters, morally slippery or ridiculously evil. These points are wider than this caricature and not easily resolved by just walking away from the error of the City’s ways.

With Amanda’s accumulated wealth helping her resolve the rest of her problems, like her dad’s homelessness, City Slacker wants to have it both ways. Well, it is a rom-com after all, but for some this might not produce the satisfactory golden handshake it promises. A little bit more com would have helped, too.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2012
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An ambitious, successful woman seeks an unambitious, unsuccessful man to be a house husband.
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Director: James Larkin

Writer: Michael Mueller

Starring: Fiona Gilles, Geoffrey Streatfield, Tom Conti, Adrian Lukis, Matilda Ziegler, Richard Lumsden

Year: 2012

Runtime: 90 minutes


Raindance 2012

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