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School for Seduction (2004)

Directed by:

Sue Heel

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 105 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a

Country: United Kingdom

The beautiful Sophia Rosselini (Kelly Brook) clears out of Naples fast, seeking refuge from her husband Giovanni (Jake Canuso) in, of all places, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. There she opens an ‘Academy of Seductive Arts’, offering lessons in seduction, glamour and ‘being a woman’. Her nightclass attracts women (and even a man) of every age and background, all united by a yearning for change. Kelly (Emily Woof) is a young single mother who longs for a managerial position with better pay and fewer hours; Clare (Dervla Kirawn) wishes her chauvinist husband Craig (Neil Stuke) would show greater interest in her than in his Alfa Romeo Spider; Irene (Margi Clarke) wants to rekindle the lost passion in her decades-spanning marriage to Derek (Tim Healy); Donna (Jessica Johnson) wants to find something worthwhile beyond her job at the ASDA checkout, and thinks she may have found it in Irene’s son Mark (Daymon Brittan); and Toni (Ben Porter) wants to improve his female impersonation act. Sophia gives them all the confidence they need to transform their lives – only she harbours a secret with the potential to undermine all her lessons.

Think ‘Trainspotting’ without the drugs, think Calendar Girls without as much stripping, Love, Actually without the sentimentality, think The Full Monty inflected with post-feminism, and you will end up with something like ‘School for Seduction’, a welcome addition to the kind of multi-narrative ensemble comedy at which British cinema seems to excel. Just as the eponymous lead of ‘Shirley Valentine’ found release from Northern drudgery and a stale marriage in the sunnier climes of Greece, the characters in ‘School for Seduction’ seek to overcome their dissatisfactions and disappointments in life with a dose of Mediterranean magic – even if they do not travel to the actual Italy (like the characters in Italian for Beginners), but rather import to their own shores an idea of Italianness which proves far more potent in energising their dreams and firing their passions than any reality could. Some of the film’s funniest moments come in the bizarre merging of Northern English and Roman sensibilities – Irene trying to stroke a microwave seductively, and suggesting a meal of ravioli to her none too enthusiastic husband (“they’re like little bags of sick”), Donna ordering a fishcake from Mark with all the sultriness she can muster, and Sophia increasing the male trade in Irene’s fish and chip shop by serving saveloys as though she were a Fellini temptress.

Conveying a positive message of self-realisation without ever becoming too serious, deftly interweaving several storylines, and showcasing excellent female acting talent both established and new (especially Jessica Johnson), Sue Heel’s entertaining debut ‘School for Seduction’ demonstrates that while there may be a bit of Latin spirit in everybody, there is also lots of Northern soul.

It's Got: A positive image of female solidarity and self-realisation; a grown man who has named, and talks to, his sportscar; corruption in the lower ranks of ASDA; excursions to a place called clitoris; and the film ends with a character declaring Shite!

It Needs: Well, its a bit slight (but hey, it is a comedy)

Alternatives:

Calendar Girls, Italian for Beginners, Shirley Valentine, The Full Monty

Summary

This post-feminist ensemble comedy shows that while there may be Latin spirit in everyone, there is also Northern soul.

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