Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dinnerladies: Series 1 (1998) Film Review
For those who need convincing that Victoria Wood is a national treasure, the first series of Dinnerladies should do the trick. Her understanding of the North, as personified by a mixed bunch of factory canteen workers, is balanced by a God-given gift for comic invention.
As co-producer/writer/actor, she has created the perfect environment for a ladies' natterthon, in which everything from the useless lumpage of husband fodder to the confidence boost of a well hung bra to the unacceptable width of a post-menopausal backside is discussed between the toast crises and whether "choice" and "beverage" should be twinned (Customer: "What would happen if I asked for a herbal tea?" Jean: "Nothing").
The cast is faultless. Each embraces the idiosyncrasies of their characters with barely disguised passion. Dolly (Thelma Barlow) and Jean (Anne Reid) are the middle-aged double act, sniping at each other with barbed affection. Twinkle (Maxine Peake) is the lumpish sulk, who considers enthusiasm for the job a betrayal of teenage principals. Anita (Shobna Gulati) may be two sandwiches short of a picnic, but her gaucheness is innocence marinated in ignorance, sweetened with Asian honey.
Bren (Wood) holds everything together, although, due to chronic lack of self-esteem, almost certainly the fault of her raddled groupie mother (Julie Walters), who "put her in an orphanage and lost the address," is more inclined to apologise for her existence, finding it inconceivable that any bloke might look at her twice. She is a wise, kind hearted, funny woman, who worries about the well being of others, rather than sorting out her own life.
Tony (Andrew Dunn) runs the canteen, has cancer, thinks about sex, fancies Bren and comes out with blistering one-liners ("On a bad day, it's like folding gravy"). Stan (Duncan Preston) is a tall, thin streak of blue overalls, who slaps on an ill fitting, bronze-streaked toupee for the posh occasions, like when Prince James, Duke of Danby, a lowly member of the Royal family, visits and, during a lull in proceedings, solicits Bren for a quickie in the canteen lavs. Stan's the odd job man, who talks appliances and tells everyone, "My dad was a Desert Rat," and takes personal pride in every piece of machinery.
The outside-inners are Philippa (Celia Imrie), an overgrown public schoolgirl, who works for Personnel, and Bren's mum, who stays in a caravan with a boy old enough to be her grandson, if she's lucky, and tends to dip into the canteen when she's on the scrounge.
Although every one of the dinnerpersons is priceless, it is Walters, looking salaciously wrecked, and Barlow who steal the show.Reviewed on: 26 Nov 2004