leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
A bit of whimsy so slight it's in perpetual danger of blowing away, this distaff variation on BILLY LIAR (1963) chronicles the misadventures of a fanciful girl whose tall tales get her in a world of trouble. Tragedy masquerading as farce attends Janice Beard's entry into the world: As her mother, Mimi (Sandra Voe), labors in childbirth, her father has a heart attack in the delivery room, sending doctors and nurses scrambling to simultaneously bring forth life and beat back death. Mr. Beard's untimely demise turns Mimi into an agoraphobe, and young Janice (Amy Lynch) starts telling outlandish stories, thinking she can lure Mimi into the outside world by making it sound more interesting than it actually is. Janice grows to adulthood with her habit of embellishing the truth firmly entrenched, but Mimi remains housebound. So Janice (Eileen Walsh) decides to take a different approach: She'll get a job and pay for her mother's therapy. Janice leaves her small Scottish hometown for London's brighter employment prospects, but is soon brought down to earth by the realities of high rents and low-wage temp jobs. Then a chance meeting with her childhood friend Vi (Frances Gray) improves Janice's prospects. Vi works at Kendon Cars, an automotive design firm about to launch its newest model, and there's a position available that could lead to full-time employment. Unfortunately, Janice gets off on the wrong foot with the imperious Julia (Patsy Kensit), glamorous head of the secretarial staff, and the other office girls. They're impressed, though, when she catches the eye of Sean (Rhys Ifans), the office boy they're all mad for. What no one realizes is that Sean's an industrial spy who's feeding information to Leyat Motors, Kendon Cars' bitter rival. His scheming and Janice's inventions are about to collide. First-time feature director/co-writer Clare Kilner appears to have been inspired by the nuttiness of swinging sixties British comedies. The legacy of films like THE KNACK and, especially, BILLY LIAR, are evident right down to the bright burst of pop that introduces Janice's first glimpse of the smashing Sean (and no, the preposterous casting of Ifans as the office heartthrob doesn't seem to be meant as a joke). But the plot's contrivances are uncomfortably strained, and ultimately your reaction to its featherweight story of love and serendipity will be determined by how charming you find the dithering, slack-jawed Janice.