Antonia and Jane (1991)

antonia and jane 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Friends aren’t always friends.

Jane (Imelda Staunton) is a depressed single woman slipping into middle-age and jealous of her lifelong friend Antonia (Saskia Reeves) who she feels is prettier and gets all the breaks. Jane pours her thoughts out to her therapist (Brenda Bruce), but the twist is that Antonia sees the same therapist and is having the same problems only in reverse as she is jealous of Jane. The first half-hour looks at things from Jane’s point-of-view while the second half shows it from Antonia’s.

The element that really makes this movie so enjoyable is the cutaways. Everything talked about during their sessions is recreated visually. These recreations are all quite funny. Some of my favorites are when Jane talks about a trip to Canada and we see her pushing over a tall pine tree with one hand. There is also the segment where Antonia’s 10-year-old son gives a raunchy stand-up comedy routine to his friends during his birthday party. The part where the two find themselves trapped in an old French war movie complete with them speaking fluid French and subtitles is quite creative as is the many different and colorful outfits that the two wear each year when they get together for their annual visit with the other.

Somehow friendships between females are quite different than the ones of their male counterparts. Harbored jealousies and insecurities seem to always lurk beneath the surface no matter how ‘happy’ their facades and this film explores them with biting and accurate detail as well as showing how skewed people’s perspectives can sometimes be. I also found myself digging the name Antonia and wondered why we don’t hear more women named that so…

Memo to all young couples and parents to be: Let’s get a few more  Antonias out there and a few less Ashleys. Thank You.

The Howard character played by Bill Nighy is also quite amusing. Jane meets him at an art exhibit where he displays big blown-up black and white photographs of twenty-four different naked rear-ends. The two go down the line and analyze each and every one, which in a strange way I thought was kind of interesting. I also got a kick out of the way he asks Jane out on a date.

Howard: Are you involved in a long-term monogamous mutually self-absorbed sexual relationship?

Jane: No.

Howard: Me neither.

In an effort to keep the quirkiness going the two women characters sometime do strange things that at times makes them hard to relate to and is the film’s only real weakness. For instance Antonia tells Jane that she is having an affair with Jane’s husband and Jane becomes very supportive of it and attends their wedding even though most people would probably want to kill their friend if they told them that and the unfaithful husband to boot. There is another scene where Antonia meets a stranger at a theater and goes back to his place for sex and even allows herself to get tied up during some kinky bondage games, which most viewers will consider being too reckless and putting oneself into too vulnerable a position with someone they don’t even know.

Usually films that seemed obsessed with tying everything together get overdone and annoying, but here the ironies are hilarious and become funnier as it goes along. Strangely it is the very end where the film loses it flamboyance and instead gives us a nice, simple scene of genuine human affection that leaves the strongest impact in this very offbeat and entertaining gem.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: November 2, 1991

Runtime: 1Hour 15Minutes

Rated R

Director: Beeban Kidron

Studio: Miramax

Available: VHS

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