4 December 2004 | bob the moo
'Only Girls' well written at the start but goes too far and becomes only about the end rather than the characters
Four girls who are friends at the same boarding school go away together to Vicky's summer home to celebrate her birthday. With a very spoilt upbringing, Vicky starts to pick on her friends and betray the trust that they put in her normally it is over small things but, when she hurts them deeply, they decide to get their own back on her and plan a cruel trick on her.
Channel 4 in the UK may be responsible for bringing a lot of American imports over and it does sometimes seem like all it does is rerun Friends ad nauseam, but it also does something that other terrestrial channels don't seem to do as easily encourage talent and promote short films. Its 'Outside' showcase is a big part of this and Coming Up is a prime example as it gives 30 minutes to new directors and writers to tell a story. I am always surprised that Channel 4 takes such a role where really it is the publicly funded BBC that should be taking the risks with stuff like this rather than the commercially driven stations. Anyway, Only Girls starts out as an interesting story of teenage girls that is convincingly well written, but it goes a route that is extreme and it rather spoils what could have been a very good character piece. By going down the 'joke with terrible consequences' road, the film moves away from what had been realistic characters cruel teenage girls, condescending posh people, needy girls who take little bits of abuse in return for friendship etc. The ending is still interesting enough but I was more interested in the people rather than the specific story of the joke.
The writing in the first half is good in this way and it did paint convincing characters who were pretty well acted out by the cast. Vicky is well played even if she is a little too OTT but I didn't think the 'working class' girl (sorry can't remember her name) worked that well because she is very timid and insecure at the start but then suddenly has confidence and drive too much of a sudden character change in the name of the plot. The other two do well as the betrayed friends and all in all they are all good enough to carry the story, not bad considering they are all teenagers.
Overall this is an OK film but it starts better than it ends. I suppose some will prefer an actual story (complete with shocks and good final shot) but for my money it was too extreme and took away from what had started as a solid little character piece with convincing teenage girls. The work done in the first half meant that I was bought in for the second half, but it is hard not to wish it could have stayed inside the characters rather than becoming a sort of one note drama.