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Mike Leigh Collection, Vol. 1 [3 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Hard Labour
Mrs. Thornley (Liz Smith) leads a rather miserable existence in Salford. She lives with her husband, Jim (Clifford Kershaw), a night custodian at a toy factory, and their grown daughter, Ann (Polly Hemingway). Mrs. Thornley is a maid who works for an imperious upper-middle class woman, Mrs. Stone (Vanessa Harris). Between her work and her home life, it seems like Mrs. Thornley is always cooking, cleaning, and fielding complaints. Jim spends most of his spare time at the pub, and is pretty cold to his wife, drunkenly demanding sex from her once a week on the night he's not working. Jim's efforts to ingratiate himself to his supervisor, Mr. Shaw (Keith Washington), are met with a stony lecture about dressing properly on the job. Ann, meanwhile, has been spending her time trying to arrange an abortion for her friend Julie (Linda Beckett) with the help of a friendly Pakistani taxi driver, Naseem (an early turn by Ben Kingsley). The couple's son, Edward (Bernard Hill, who would later play Théoden in Lord of the Rings) seems to care about his mum, but his wife, Veronica (Alison Steadman, in the first of many performances for writer/director Mike Leigh), is a snob who constantly harangues him about his manners and looks down on his family. Mrs. Thornley, beaten down by her wearying existence, eventually seeks solace from a local priest. Hard Labour, Leigh's follow-up to Bleak Moments, was originally produced for the BBC's Play for Today series. It features an appearance by Alan Erasmus (who would become a major figure in the Manchester pop scene), portrayed by Lennie James in Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Abigail's Party
Abigail's Party originally aired as part of the BBC's influential Play for Today series. Writer/director Mike Leigh was responsible for several productions for the series, as was Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective). This filmed play was developed the same way most of Leigh's work has been -- in improvisatory workshops with the actors. It was also performed on-stage before it was filmed for television. It's a character-driven social satire. Alison Steadman (Leigh's wife, who has appeared in many of his films) stars as Beverly, the obnoxious, manipulative host of a small gathering of neighbors. Tim Stern plays Laurence, Beverly's career-driven, joyless husband. The couple has Angela (Janine Duvitski), a talkative nurse, and Tony (John Salthouse), her taciturn husband, for a visit, along with Sue (Harriet Reynolds), an unfailingly polite and timid divorced woman whose 15-year-old daughter, Abigail, is having a party that night. Beverly begins drinking and smoking before anyone else arrives, and doesn't stop throughout the night. She sets her sights on Tony the moment he walks in the door. She flirts openly with him. Laurence objects ineffectually, while Angela seems almost to encourage Beverly's interest in her husband. For his part, Tony doesn't say much. He's ill at ease, and seems to be in a very bad mood. Sue is also uncomfortable among these people, and preoccupied with what's going on at her own house. She allows Beverly to goad her into drinking until she gets sick. At one point (at Beverly's urging), Tony and Laurence go over to Sue's house to check up on things, but the reassurances they offer upon their return are unconvincing. The tension between Beverly and Laurence grows. As she taunts and belittles him, he objects to nearly everything she says and does, and the evening heads toward disaster. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

Grown Ups
Made for British television by filmmaker Mike Leigh, Grown Ups is a detailed slice-of-life drama about a married, working-class couple in Canterbury, England. The film begins with the young couple, Dick and Mandy, moving to a new, rather small home and becoming neighbors to Mr. Butcher, an abrasive, ill-humored man who they once had as a schoolteacher. This rather awkward living situation soon becomes even more uncomfortable, thanks to the near-constant presence of Mandy's older sister, Gloria. (Gloria is portrayed by Brenda Blethyn, who 17 years later would win recognition and an Oscar nomination for her work in Leigh's Secrets and Lies.) Gloria's eccentricity and desperate, child-like neediness leads her to become increasingly dependent on the young couple, showing up at all hours and rarely leaving. Her behavior grates on the already sour Dick and comes to test Mandy's patience as well. When Mandy's efforts to politely discourage her sister's visits prove fruitless, the extended family is forced into a painful, emotionally charged confrontation. Leigh purposefully alternates the film's more immediate dramatic elements with careful, real-time portraits of daily life, giving equal weight to both traumatic arguments and extended conversations about home decor and vacuum cleaners. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Liz Smith
    Liz Smith - Mrs. Thornley
  • Alison Steadman
    Alison Steadman - Veronica
  • Image coming soon
    Linda Beckett - Julie
  • Ben Kingsley
    Ben Kingsley - Naseem
  • Bernard Hill
    Bernard Hill - Edward
Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.