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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A typically Leigh short film – plot light but very realistic and downbeat in its portrayal of 'normal' people

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
10 July 2004

Joy works in a chemists and gets to know Clive as he comes in for various things – their relationship develop even though she seems to be having different conversations from him, as he is always just making bad jokes. Joy gets her hair done by Betty in the local hairdressers; Betty cannot stop talking for a second, even when she goes home to her daughter Charlene.

Best known as the title of a series of short films commissioned by channel 4, this film was the one that started the series and gave it its name, this is a short example of Mike Leigh's usual kitchen sink realism with grubby lives, mired in the drudgery of day to day nonsense. The plot here is pretty much by the by, although there is a general flow involving Joy and Clive's relationship and Charlene's feeling of being trapped. The latter is more important to the film as it is more of a theme than a piece of plot and the film does this well – delivering a downbeat but realistic look at the lives of people who, well, people who are normal. Leigh does this very well and the film is sobering and comic in just how recognisable it is to many of us who live in Britain.

The characters are where it's at and they are awful people but not exaggerated ones. Clive reminds me of me a bit – unable to stop trying to keep himself behind a shield of 'lines', Joy who tries to just keep plodding along, Charlene who knows there must be something better than this and Betty who is the type of woman who never stops talking long enough to notice just how empty her life is! As such it works because it feels like we have been allowed to see into a few real lives – but I imagine it will annoy those who need a definite plot or who don't like Leigh's style. The cast do well with this and each delivers their characters well. Steadman grates like anything and is the sort of person I would cross the road to avoid; an early role for Thewlis is great but annoying and both Le Touzel and Nottingham both just grind out their lives in a believable way.

Overall a great little short film that is typical of Leigh. It is realistic and downbeat even if the plot is not what you want if you're after a traditional narrative. Well worth a look for fans though.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

great stuff

Author: Marty-G from San Jose, CA
15 March 1999

Wonderfully entertaining stuff. David Thewlis puts in a truly geeky performance that'd put any real-life nerd to shame. Alison Steadman's voice grates like a... well... cheese-grater... and again there's that bleakness we come to expect from Mike Leigh, but a sensitivity too, comedy of course and a depth of character not often achieved in short films.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Wonderful Offbeat Comedy Short

10/10
Author: Enrique Sanchez from Miami, FL
25 December 2006

To say this is perfect is far-fetched...yes...but you must watch this one to decide for yourself.

I first saw this on our local Miami public TV station as a filler for late night openings between episodes of this and that. I only caught a part of it the first time. Then, to my surprise, they showed it again. This time I got to see the whole thing. I was perplexed but thoroughly entertained.

I caught a few of its funny lines. The next time, a friend and I started repeating the lines as they came. The fourth time, they became part of our daily vernacular. The English accents got to us. We started to imitate those wonderful sounds as only the English can conjure. So delicious did our encounters with this short become that it became high camp for us and we would laugh even before the laughs and the quirks of the characters returned to our ears each time.

Alison Steadman and David Thewlis were positively perfect and acted so unassumingly to the camp lines which they had to deliver. I bet there were lots of takes in this one.

All in all...a nice short and fun, if not offbeat ride into the wonderful mind of Mike Leigh!

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

"I wouldn't be joking all the time if I wasn't serious."

7/10
Author: MisterWhiplash from United States
2 March 2009

Not a lot "happens" in The Short & Curlies, but Mike Leigh doesn't need a whole lot of dramatic things to "happen", he just needs characters that will get some attention for 18 minutes. He gets that, and this is what makes it enjoyable and even tender and deep for a little bit. It's simply about a young woman, Joy, who works at a pharmacy and is romanced by a Clive, a young geeky guy who speaks in one-liners (some decent, some not worthy of that so-bad-it's-funny bad pun status). He says a line in the film that sums him up though about being serious underneath all of his jokes. His interest and sincerity in her is real, which is perhaps what makes Joy tolerate him so much, even as she is around Betty, a hairdresser who can't stop gawking at hot men on the tele (even if they are not to Joy) and can talk a mile while doing crazy things with hair.

It's nothing very remarkable, but it's a good short because it doesn't overstay its welcome, it has some strong talent working in front of the camera- David Thewlis in an early role shows how much he can do with so little and Sylvestra Le Touzel, an actress I've never seen or heard of before this and surprised me with her subtlety and little glances that make her character richer- and the ending is a solid, bittersweet touch. Don't rush out to track it down unless you're a big Mike Leigh fan-boy or girl, but if you happen to already have or seek out the Naked Criterion DVD anyway then it's not something to pass by either.

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Entertaining characters

6/10
Author: Thomas (filmreviews@web.de) from Berlin, Germany
29 July 2016

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Short & Curlies" is a British 17-minute live action short film from 1988, so it will soon have its 30th anniversary. It is an early work by legendary filmmaker Mike Leigh and this was actually the first he got nominated for a BAFTA, even if he lost to the Swedish entry. Even more impressive as this was a television production. The cast includes David Thewlis (from Harry Potter) and Alison Steadman who are still pretty famous today too. The former plays a likable nerd who loves to joke around with his girlfriend all the time, while Steadman play's the young woman's mother a hairdresser who just can't shut up either. Herdaughter is the only somewhat normal one. But these characters are fun to watch and they are the ones who make this an entertaining little film. i recommend seeing it. Delivers nicely in terms of romance, family and comedy.

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It's far less about the story here and more about the characterizations.

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
27 May 2016

"The Short & Curlies" is a short made for British television. It has a plot that is rather slight but the projects works because the characters are very interesting and realistic, as writer/director Mike Leigh shows a definite knack for these quirky sorts of people you see in the film.

The story involves a working class English couple--the tall, nerdy guy who only seems to communicate by telling jokes and his girlfriend who seems to put up with him. In addition, there's the hairdresser that talks and talks without saying anything as well as her sad daughter.

As I said already, the strength of this film isn't the plot so much as the characters. They are strange but still believable and the film does a nice job of taking the viewers into these folks' world. Nothing brilliant but still very nice.

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