The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964)

the luck of ginger coffey

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: He needs a job.

Ginger Coffey (Robert Shaw) is a middle-aged man living in Montreal whose dreams and ambitions far outweigh his grim predicament. He moves from one low paying job to another convinced that his lot in life will improve. His wife Vera (Mary Ure) decides to leave him and Ginger tries to win her back while juggling two jobs and hoping to get a promotion in one that never seems to come.

As a vivid look at the daily lives of the everyday working class this film hits a solid bullseye. The conversations between the co-workers and the monotonous and sometimes demeaning job interview process and Ginger’s on-going arguments with his wife and daughter are all true to form. There is no pretension and director Irvin Kershner keeps everything at a bare-bones minimum giving it almost a documentary style and making the viewer feel immersed in the bleak environment. The outdoor shots of the city are unexciting and cinematically unappealing, but help reflect the grim level. Watching Ginger get kicked out of his apartment and have to carry what is left of his belongings and then place them on the outside sidewalk while he goes in to visit his daughter in her school is quietly powerful.

Robert Shaw is excellent. This is a man who had by all accounts had a very dominating and proud personality in real-life and usually played characters with the same traits, so seeing him play against type and succeed is interesting. What is really effective is that he makes the character very human and likable despite his constant goof-ups, which keeps the viewer compelled to his situation.

Ure, who at the time was married to Shaw in real-life, gives an equally outstanding performance. Her perplexed facial expressions are perfect and the fact that we see her character grow and become more confident is good.

I also must mention Liam Redmond as Ginger’s cantankerous boss, who is nicknamed by his employees as ‘Hitler’. Ginger’s rushed job interview that he has with him is one of the film’s highpoints as is the moment when Ginger dashes away from him when he is caught making a personal phone call.

The only real complaint I have with the film is the ending, which is for the most part non-existent. I have seen vague wide-open endings in my movie viewing lifetime, but this thing is a cop-out and really boring one at that. I think when a viewer has spent nearly two hours empathizing with his difficult  and precarious situation that they deserve some sort of finality, or at least a hint of what became of him and whether he ever did find that ‘luck’ that he was so convinced was out there.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: September 21, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Irvin Kershner

Studio: Continental Distributing

Available: YouTube

2 responses to “The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964)

  1. Nice one! Never heard of it, looks right up my alley. I always thought Robert Shaw was one of those underrated talents. A great actor, looking forward to seeing this. My research shows that in America it’s only available as an out-of-print VHS which currently are fetching $40 on Amazon. I did find it on YouTube here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvPek9LBnPc and will check it out later. Thanks for the reco!

  2. Finally got around to watching this last night on You Tube, REALLY liked it! Great movie, and it was very nice to see Robert Shaw in something that wasn’t from the 70’s, he had major talent and on-screen charisma. Thanks for the great reco! And also, I agree with you about the ending, I do like open-ended endings but that one was kinda lame, I suppose the message was that he and the wife decided to take another try at it, also what I got out of it was that they were exactly back at the same point materialistic-wise as the beginning of the film. Again, great choice, thanks!

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