ANTONIA & JANE, directed by Beeban Kidron from a screenplay by Marcy Kahan, is a refreshing portrayal of a common theme--friendship conquers all.
Jane Hartman (Imelda Staunton) occupies her time as a bookshop manager and volunteer disk jockey at a retirement home. The old folks love her, treat her as their daughter and constantly give her advice on her conspicuously lacking love life. Old man Irwin Carlinsky (John Bennett) tells her that
he has the perfect man for her ... his nephew Stephen (Allan Corduner). The only problem is that he's serving a five-year prison sentence.
Jane sits in her therapist's (Brenda Bruce) office pondering her life and her relationship with her best friend Antonia McGill (Saskia Reeves), whom she rarely sees. Jane is worried about their upcoming annual reunion dinner. She's terribly jealous and envious of Antonia and her life but must
find a way to deal with it. She flashes back to her beginnings with Antonia.
Antonia and Jane are young teenagers who are very different. Jane is homely and eccentric. Antonia is pretty and hip and Jane worships her. Even though Jane is clearly an outcast, Antonia befriends her, but in a half-hearted way. Some years later, Jane gets her first boyfriend, Howard Nash (Bill
Nighy), an artist whom she meets in a gallery. They spend all their time in his apartment making love. Jane happily introduces Howard to Antonia, but some weeks later, when Jane relates to Antonia that she and Howard are experiencing problems, Antonia confesses that she and Howard have been having
an affair and they are going to be married. Jane masochistically maintains her friendship with Antonia and Howard, and even attends their wedding, but the friendship is strained.
They rarely see one another, unless it's at the annual reunion dinner where Jane always patiently awaits Antonia's arrival. Jane continues in her search for a more exciting way of life. She tackles everything, from religion to acting to jazz, with passion. Jane even finds a new boyfriend, of
sorts, Norman Beer (Richard Hope). Norman's problem is that he can't make love to Jane unless she reads aloud from the works of his favorite author--Iris Murdoch. Jane's problem is that she can't stand Iris Murdoch. With the help of her therapist, she becomes more aggressive and calls off the
Meanwhile, Antonia maintains the same job she has always had as a publishing assistant. She has given birth to a son, her marriage is falling apart, and she envies Jane's more adventurous lifestyle. Ironically, she's also seeing the same therapist as Jane. Antonia moans her guilt over how she has
treated Jane and wants to find some way to resolve it. Howard has found a younger woman and moved in with her. Antonia has been fired from her job, has had an affair with the headmaster from her son's school, and is terribly nervous about the upcoming annual reunion dinner with Jane. Her therapist
tells her what she tells everyone: "Look at every experience as an adventure."
One day, Jane receives a call from Stephen, the nephew in prison. Only he's not in prison anymore--he's escaped in order to court Jane. They spend an afternoon together with their respective extended families when Stephen announces that they are going to be married. All the while, Jane exclaims
that she is not going to marry him. When the police arrive to arrest Stephen, however--much to the horror of Jane's family--Jane realizes that Stephen is the man for her and vows to await his release.
When the day of the reunion dinner finally arrives, both Antonia and Jane visit the therapist. The newly empowered Jane announces her intention to end her friendship with Antonia since she has not been a very good friend, and the therapist gives her a stock response. Jane then tells the therapist
that she will not be returning for her services. Later, the humbled Antonia sees the therapist and tells her that she wishes to rekindle her friendship with Jane and make up for all the hurt she has caused her. Again, the therapist replies with her stock response. Antonia, too, dismisses the
therapist. Once again, Jane arrives at the dinner on time and waits patiently, though Antonia arrives surprisingly early. Jane rises from her table. They each step forward and, their faces suffused with emotion, embrace.
ANTONIA & JANE is a cerebral, eccentric buddy movie. Reminiscent of such films as BEACHES, THE TURNING POINT and BEST FRIENDS, but not as glossy, it convincingly delivers the message that friends are not always friends. Kidron, fresh from her directorial triumph with ORANGES ARE NOT THE ONLY
FRUIT, effectively portrays the distance between the characters by rarely showing them on screen together. Hence, there's an enormous payoff at the end when the characters are finally united.
ANTONIA & JANE is briskly paced and well written, delivering the quick, dry wit for which the British are renowned. The visuals are less than thrilling, no doubt as a result of budget limitations; some spicier settings might have helped the eyes. Nevertheless, this is a very enjoyable film that
should appeal to any adult audience. (Mild profanity, adult situations, nudity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1991
- Rating: R
- Review: ANTONIA & JANE, directed by Beeban Kidron from a screenplay by Marcy Kahan, is a refreshing portrayal of a common theme--friendship conquers all. Jane Hartman (Imelda Staunton) occupies her time as a bookshop manager and volunteer disk jockey at a retire… (more)