A ruthless indictment of the British class system, ROOM AT THE TOP is a hallmark, seminal film in the social realist British "kitchen sink" movement, which produced such movies as SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, A TASTE OF HONEY, and THIS SPORTING LIFE. But ROOM set the trend and
lured adults back into theaters in droves, thanks to its frank treatment of sexuality and the blaze of energy brought to it by the magnificence and suffering of the incomparable Signoret. You may not agree, but we think (because of her) it stands the test of time. Laurence Harvey, the film's
ruthless anti-hero, hopes to gatecrash past his working-class origins. Arriving in a bleak Yorkshire industrial town, he secures a low-paying job as a government accountant, but soon realizes that professional skill won't bring social status. He sets his cap for Sears, the naive young daughter of
millionaire industrialist Wolfit, who tries to break up the romance by shipping Sears off to the Continent. Harvey then begins an affair with Signoret, a married woman 10 years his senior. When Sears returns, love clashes with ambition.
Based on the "angry young man" novel by John Braine, ROOM AT THE TOP broke new ground in its realistic dialogue, sexual frankness (it received an X certificate in Britain), and bitter condemnation of provincialism and class-consciousness. Jack Clayton, who had previously directed only the
mid-length THE BESPOKE OVERCOAT, was hailed as an important new voice in British cinema on its strength, while screenwriter Neil Paterson and Simone Signoret both won Oscars for their work. It also took Best Picture and Best Foreign Actress (Signoret) British Film Academy awards, as well as
another Best Actress for Signoret at Cannes. Among the supporting performers Wolfit and Phillpotts (as Harvey's wealthy future in-laws) are especially good. ROOM AT THE TOP memorably conveys the snobbery, poverty, desperation, and politics of class in provincial England. A sequel, LIFE AT THE TOP,
also starred Harvey, but otherwise failed to live up to the standard of the original.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: A ruthless indictment of the British class system, ROOM AT THE TOP is a hallmark, seminal film in the social realist British "kitchen sink" movement, which produced such movies as SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, A TASTE OF HONEY, and THIS SPORTING LIFE.… (more)