Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging (2008)

atpsIt’s quite baffling that the latest from director Gurinder Chadha would get a direct to DVD treatment here in the states considering a few of her last movies experienced considerable theatrical releases, most notably “Bride & Prejudice” and the sleeper hit “Bend it Like Beckham.” What with the hit books and the appealing young cast, this movie could have cleaned up in a wide release, but sadly it’s just reduced to becoming another shelf hugger in a video store. Which is a shame because like much of Chadha’s films, “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging” is a perfectly serviceable and quite entertaining bit of escapism centered around teen romance and sexual awakening.

Chadha has definitely appealed to the female audience for years, but “Angus, Thongs…” is probably the movie that may only appeal to the female persuasion. It’s almost exclusively about women whom are experiencing a new form of love in the wake of separation or heartbreak and I was almost not interested in the premise because the movie is pretty much alienating to anyone who doesn’t possess a bust. Much of Chadha’s film is sold by the charm and unusual beauty of Georgia Bloome who plays Georgia Nicholson, a girl in search for something more than crushes. While on the hunt for her first kiss, two young boys move in to her neighborhood and she soon sets her sights on the younger of the two Robbie.

Most of the film is centered around Georgia’s attempts to not only secure a place with Robbie in the face of his relationship with the school bully, but to find a way to improve herself in the process. These attempts are often disastrous with the proper amount of teenage awkwardness and realism that make us feel quite sympathetic for her even when she’s being completely selfish. There’s something about Chadha’s film that manages to overcome the cheese and hokey elements. Obviously it’s a teenage girl’s fantasy what with the desire for perfect friends, perfect parents, and a perfect boyfriend, but it never cuts our female protagonist any slack even when she’s being cute. While Georgia is pleasing on the eyes, she also has a lot of individuality to her to ensure she’s an imperfect heroine who may never achieve her goals of perfection because she’s too self-centered to realize she’s pretty much already perfect in the eyes of others.

The second half of the film is devoted to her eventually coming around to realizing that, and she suffers the brunt of punishment from her peers when she sinks to some cruel lows to get her man. It’s true this movie will mainly appeal to girls, but Chadha’s talents are too apparent to just write off. She directs the movie with a subtlety that makes it feel more heartfelt rather than fluffy; pair that with a rather engaging story and there’s an instant formula for a pretty successful romance comedy that is a certified winner for the female director. I’m pretty bias of course since my obsessions with the British culture knows no limitations, but “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging” is a wonderful bit of escapism that will assuredly win over any crowd because of its realistic and relatable cast of characters, which Chadha seems to excel at spotlighting.

Whether it’s the source material or just the adaptation from Chadha and Berges, the climax to “Angus, Thongs…” is much too safe to warrant taking it seriously. While most of the film is a certified fantasy, the climax would have truly brought the story down to reality with some heartbreak and realism. Sadly, the writers instead opt for a pat happy ending that doesn’t just end on a happy note, but a giddy note where everything is almost perfect thus contradicting the original moral of the story. It’s tough to take anything here at face value when Chadha and co. are utterly unwilling to take a chance with an ending that would have been more grounded instead of just seeking to keep the audience happy.

I was mainly pleased throughout the film until the final fifteen minutes which I just couldn’t quite swallow. In spite of the clunky finale, “Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging” is a perfectly entertaining chick flick with strong performances and Gurinder Chadha’s trademark appeal to female sensibilities. While the men in the audience may not find much to look for, their mates will pretty much love it.