Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mike Leigh: Happy-Go-Lucky, Vera Drake, Topsy-Turvy

If you're not familiar with the work of director Mike Leigh, here is a good sampling of his films available on Netflix Watch Instantly.  Leigh works very closely with his actors in the development of his scripts, producing particularly ambitious and impressive performances and nuanced character development.

Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, UK, 2008, 118 minutes)
Netflix: London teacher Poppy Cross (Sally Hawkins, in a Golden Globe-winning role) is eternally cheerful, but when someone steals her beloved bike, she takes up driving and gets paired with Scott (Eddie Marsan), an instructor who's her polar opposite. The relationship is strained till Poppy's bright personality attracts a co-worker, making Scott unexpectedly jealous. Director Mike Leigh's effervescent tale also copped a Golden Globe nod for Best Picture.  Netflix link.

Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, UK, 2004, 119 minutes)
Netflix: Vera Drake (Imelda Staunton, who earned an Oscar nomination for her portrayal) spends her days doting on her working-class family. But Vera also has a secret side: Her family and friends don't know that she visits women and helps them induce miscarriages for their unwanted pregnancies. When the authorities get wind of her activities -- then illegal in 1950s England -- Vera's world quickly falls apart, deeply affecting both her and her family.  Netflix link.

Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, UK, 1999, 161 minutes)
Netflix: After their production of "Princess Ida" tanks, Arthur Gilbert (Allan Corduner) and William Sullivan (Jim Broadbent) start a cold war that threatens to end their long-lasting partnership -- but friends and associates work overtime to bring them back together. The result is their classic play "The Mikado." Mike Leigh's thoughtful musical comedy-drama garnered four Academy Award nominations and won for costume design and makeup.  Netflix link.

Naked (Mike Leigh, UK, 1993, 125 minutes)
Netflix: A self-confessed lost boy heads for the big-city grit and glamour of London to escape the repercussions of his most recent misstep -- the sexual assault of a young woman. But a fresh start isn't meant to be.  Netflix link.

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