First Person Plural

The search for happiness in Mike Leigh's comedies of manners
by Michael Atkinson   posted Oct 17, 2008

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Personally, I think Leigh gets a lot of undeserved credit which tends to distract from how manipulative he can be as a filmmaker. We often hear that his famed rehearsal process gives both his actors and his characters a special degree of freedom, but both High Hopes and Happy Go Lucky are full of characters behaving in precisely the way they need to for Leigh to make his points. In fact, High Hopes rarely ventures from the 'poor-people-good, rich-people-bad' school of human understanding, and in Happy Go Lucky, the character of the domesticated sister is simply there as a mouthpiece for a lifestyle which Leigh has little time for. And as for the taxi driver, to me he's just a walking conglomeration of what Leigh dislikes. As your article suggests, there's not much visual pleasure to be found in Leigh's films. I suppose my worry is that, if he's only able to communicate through the characters, Leigh ends up weighing them down, leaving us with mouthpieces in place of people.
adamob   posted 29.10.08


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Courtesy Miramax Films
Sally Hawkins and Mike Leigh filming Happy-Go-Lucky
Photo Gallery: First Person Plural


October 18-19, 2008 Weekend with Mike Leigh
October 3-25, 2008 Mike Leigh: Moments


Michael Atkinson is the author/editor of six books, including Ghosts in the Machine: Speculating on the Dark Heart of Pop Cinema (Limelight Eds., 2000), Flickipedia (Chicago Review Press, 2007), Exile Cinema: Filmmakers at Work Beyond Hollywood (SUNY Press, 2008), and the novels from St. Martin's Press Hemingway Deadlights and Hemingway Cutthroat.

More articles by Michael Atkinson
Author's Website: Zero for Conduct