Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging Review
Novels for teenagers (or “young adults” if you prefer) are thriving right now, and it's no surprise that the film industry has taken notice. But then you could argue that Hollywood (and its overseas branches and imitators) have been making films for teenage boys for years. But films for teenage girls? Yes, they do get made, and tend to be patronised by male critics and filmgoers, who pore over films aimed at them as if they were Holy Writ. The market leader in this demographic is Jacqueline Wilson, one of the most successful novelists in Britain for any audience, so where are the films based on her work? (Adaptations so far have been on television only.) Louise Rennison's Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series is also highly successful Here we have a film based on two of them: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and It's Okay, I'm Wearing Really Big Knickers. (The film is Perfect as presumably someone thought Full-Frontal would have the wrong connotations.)
Georgia Nicolson (Georgia Groome, from London to Brighton, now making a film she's old enough to see) is fourteen and living in Eastbourne. Her parents (Alan Davies and Karen Taylor) are really ancient and her young sister Libby is just mad. She'd like her nose to be smaller and she would really, really like a boyfriend.
Director and co-writer Gurinder Chadha has previous form in this genre, having made Bend It Like Beckham six years ago, which centred on a somewhat older teenage girl. (And forget Keira Knightley – Parminder Nagra was the one who carried the film.) Angus, Thongs... is in the same vein: like most romantic comedies, you know how it will end – it's how we get there that counts and how the obstacles and misunderstandings that get in the way are overcome. As with the earlier film, there's a sense that the film is happening in a real place rather than Anytown. Most importantly, Chadha and her co-writers don't talk down to the audience. Many a girl of Georgia's age will identify with at least some part of her and of what she does. At times she's infuriating and at others highly sympathetic as things that adults would consider trivial take on epic dramatic proportions in her head.
Another plus is casting. Too many screen teenagers are played by older actors and nine times out of ten they look completely unconvincing. (Worst recent offender: 1999's Virtual Sexuality, in which the entire principal cast was over twenty, in some cases nearer thirty.) Georgia Groome was fifteen when she made this film, and that benefits the film enormously. Alan Davies underplays effectively as the kind of Dad you'd like to have had, even if you didn't think so at the time. There's some colourful widescreen camerawork from Dick Pope.
You can forgive some amateurish acting from some of the supporting cast as this is a genuine crowd-pleaser, often funny and moving briskly along to its happy ending.