Nominated for Best UK Feature at this 2012’s Raindance Film Festival, City Slacker is a satisfying and uplifting tale of love, greed and family revolving around one woman’s desperate search for companionship and motherhood.
Fiona Gillies is Amanda, a forty-something exec who has given her life to reaching the top of the corporate ladder. Unfortunately, her ‘rainy day’ plan for a family is pushed ahead of schedule when a fire at her fertility clinic destroys her eggs, frozen during her prime to await the day when a child is next on the to do list. Desperate for a child before her body clock winds down, Amanda goes on a mission to find a young slacker to fill the role of father and house-husband so that her career can continue uninterrupted.
Standing at almost six foot tall, Gillies is perfect for the pushy, domineering and straight-talking Amanda, but her real strength is in her ability to convey the complexities of Amanda’s vulnerability. Left with nothing but her professional success, Amanda lacks any personal life to speak of and does not react well to her new situation, resulting in a very sympathetic character that Gillies portrays well. At times the performance can seem forced, with her objective to show strength and control taking too much of the role, but these moments settle down as the film progresses.
This is greatly helped by the supporting role of Tom Conti as Amanda’s father, Ray, who appears in his daughter’s life just as her life enters this period of turmoil. This father-daughter relationship is surprisingly involving, as it is not one often seen in film, and provides a solid through-line for the length of the film.
Conti’s appearances also provide some of the biggest laughs of this romantic comedy, a fact that throws into contrast the rest of the film. Whilst the dialogue is witty and filled with unmistakably British humour, there are too many attempts at cheap, slapstick laughs. Adrian Lukis’s Charles, Amanda’s jilted ex out for revenge, is a caricature of corporate greed and obsession, larger than life but not necessarily in the good sense of the phrase, whilst Richard Lumsden’s bumbling attempts at providing laughs soon become tiresome.
Luckily, the majority of the characters are well-rounded and believably amusing. Geoffrey Streatfeild is charming and likable as Dan, the target of Amanda’s affections as well as her maternal objectives, whilst Matilda Zeigler’s Louisa is exactly what a mother of young children is expected to be: tired, irritable and delightfully cynical towards the joys of parenthood.
The film itself is a great advertisement for London, having been shot in various areas around the city. The glass and glossy, metallic shine of the office blocks contrast well with the parks and domestic warmth of character’s homes to portray the differences between the two sides of Amanda’s life.
Despite fine performances from Fiona Gillies, Tom Conti and Geoffrey Streatfeild, City Slacker contains too many flaws to be easily excused. The narrative, whilst unique, is all too predictable and therefore has no real emotional payoff. The comedy is effective at times but let down by attempts at cheaply earned laughs and irritating gags. However, it’s certainly worthwhile for the enjoyment of watching a truly British film constructed well and with, on the whole, likable characters to enjoy.
Best bit: Louisa’s description of the effects of parenting on her life is hilariously honest and wonderfully realised.