28 June 2005 | bob the moo
Interesting but rather undercut by the film wanting the air of a caper movie of a sort
When Joyti De-Laurey gets a temp job as a PA for a manager at Goldman Sachs she is determined to make a good impression. Going the extra mile she quickly gets offered a permanent job. She starts working long hours, sorting out her bosses' professional and personal life as much as her own. Soon the money around her starts to make her dream and it is then that she starts to write cheques to herself for a few thousand here and there. Her family may worry about her long hours but Joyti lies to them about new jobs and promotions and they generally are happy with the money coming in. As she treats herself to endless jewellery and clothing her greed grows as she heads on her way to a stolen life of luxury built on £4 million of other people's money.
With such a daring and brazen "robbery" of rich peoples' money, it was only a matter of time before this case became a film in one form or another. Certainly it had potential and delivers on it in most areas if not all. The film allows us into a world where people earn so much that they don't miss a few thousand here or there; Joyti's eventual boss queries a transaction over £2 million but only because "it doesn't ring any bells" were it me bells would be ringing, alarm bells. This world is interesting and the film does an OK job of brining it out mostly by using talking heads to spell it out and compliment the dramatised section of the film. It may not create a convincing world but the impression is there. It also creates a convincing character in Joyti, although it never gets into any depth in her. She is lying, manipulative and greedy but also needy, eager to be liked and unhappy; however beyond these buzz words I never got the impression of a real person just a good character made from court transcripts and individual stories about her.
These minor quibbles still allow it to be an entertaining and interesting film, but one thing that does consistently damage it a bit is the uneven tone. This is not a judgement piece or a look at materialistic society but rather a film that wants to be a caper movie but can't quite bring itself to be an out and out swinging adventure because it is still a real story with real people. To do this it tries to mix a tragic, dark air with a rather upbeat and "jaunty" tone perhaps recognising that many viewers will side with Joyti and see her less as a criminal and more as a sort of working-class heroine. Of course she is nothing of the sort, but the film still has lively music, quick edits and pop songs all helping to show her living it up. This doesn't sit well with the rest of the film and some of it just doesn't work as a result. A shame because so much of it is actually pretty good.
Syal is very good as Joyti, bringing out more in her character than the script actually gave her I think. Although the tone of the post-production is mixed, she seems to be playing to the dark side and be more interested in who her character is good in one way but then it also contributes to the uneven mix of tones. Support is generally good from the rest of the cast, although I did think that Leach (as the mother-in-law) was so good that it was a shame she wasn't allowed more time during the dramatised bits of the film. That said though, it is Syal's film and she does carry the film through weak moments well.
Overall an interesting and enjoyable film that is only slightly spoilt by the fact that it can't make its mind up what it wants to be. So it is good (but not great) as a character piece, look at the highflying world of financial institutions, character study and TV drama; it is mainly the lighter "caper" air to it that falls flat and, unfortunately, tends to drag the other aspects down a bit at the same time.