An eccentric comedy about a Scottish social misfit that starts out on an exhilarating high but gradually loses steam, "Janice Beard 45 WPM" tries hard to overcome its inconsistency with relentless whimsy.

An eccentric comedy about a Scottish social misfit that starts out on an exhilarating high but gradually loses steam, “Janice Beard 45 WPM” tries hard to overcome its inconsistency with relentless whimsy. While its quirkiness at times feels contrived, this tale of a secretarially challenged office temp and pathological liar remains agreeable thanks in part to newcomer Eileen Walsh’s goofy presence. A long shot for theatrical success, the colorful pic could land limited sales on the strength of its appeal to women.

Pic opens promisingly with a clever title sequence full of typographic errors and corrections, then lurches into a hilarious recap of Janice’s childhood. Her father dies of a heart attack during her birth, causing her mother (Sandra Voe) to create a new medical condition that endures for 23 years: post-natal, post-mortem depression. As Janice grows up, she studies medical journals to find a cure for her housebound mother’s ills, eventually heading to London with minimal secretarial skills to earn the cash to pay for treatment.

Inhabiting an elaborate fantasy world of dazzling artistic and professional achievements, Janice concocts an impressive c.v. and plunges into the work force , with disastrous results.

In exchange for her promise to be as normal as possible, Janice gets a job in the typing pool of a car manufacturing firm through her childhood friend Vi (Frances Gray). As the company gears up for the launch of a new model, Janice becomes a strategic pawn in the plans of office assistant Sean (Rhys Ifans of “Notting Hill”).

After the breezy introduction, the film slides into a prolonged lag in the midsection as Janice struggles to find a niche in the office. But director and co-writer Clare Kilner peppers the action with amusing vignettes, many of them in Janice’s extravagantly dishonest video missives to her mother in Scotland. Considerable laughs come also from Patsy Kensit in a spirited turn as the vain secretarial supervisor. The climactic events unfold in a somewhat disorderly fashion, but they provide the film with a warm final act.

Mirroring the fanciful nature of Janice’s overactive imagination, production designer Sophie Betcher and costumer Michele Clapton create a vibrant, candy-colored world.

Janice Beard 45 Wpm

British

Production

A Film Consortium presentation in association with Arts Council of England, Wave Pictures, Film Four of a Dakota Film production. (International sales: The Sales Co., London.) Produced by Judy Counihan. Executive producer, Jonathan Olsberg. Co-producer, Torsten Lechsly. Directed by Clare Kilner. Screenplay, Kilner, Ben Hopkins.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Richard Greatrex, Peter Thwaites; editor, Mary Finlay; music, Paul Carr; production designer, Sophie Betcher; art director, Karen Wakefield; costume designer, Michele Clapton; sound (Dolby Digital), Ronald Bailey; casting , Susie Figgis. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 17, 1999. Running time: 78 MIN.

With

Janice - Eileen Walsh Sean - Rhys Ifans Julia - Patsy Kensit O'Brien - David O'Hara Mimi - Sandra Voe Violet - Frances Gray
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