Brenda Blethyn and Julie Walters seem too often to be in women’s weepy territory and are in it again in this slice of gritty Northern life – The Full Monty by way of Shirley Valentine. It’s written by Kay Mellor, who’s almost cornered the market in female northern empowerment on British TV with scripts for Band of Gold and Just Us. The two ladies play factory girls Dawn and Jackie – Dawn (Blethyn) is the mopey victim-type, Jackie (Walters) is her spunky sister-in-law – who take a pause from fetching and carrying (Dawn) and shagging (Jackie) and head off to Las Vegas for a fling when they discover that Dawn has a terminal disease. There they meet an All-American Male, played by Kris Kristofferson (graciously, considering how minor the role is) who doesn’t just make their evening in the casino, he makes Dawn’s entire life. If, with this Kristofferson angle, it sounds like Mellor has taken the cultural cringe to the level of insanity, the actresses pull it off, Blethyn in particular managing to keep the terminal-illness heebie-jeebies at bay with a performance that starts glum but builds towards believable joy. Apart from the Vegas jaunt the film too often seems to be ticking the northern boxes – feckless men, women hobbled by circumstance, production-line work, bingo, even the choice of Rawtenstall (pronounced closer to Rotten Stall than the spelling might suggest) as the ladies’ home town. Consequently, Girls’ Night feels constantly as if it’s about to become Thelma and Louise on welfare.
© Steve Morrissey 1998