Shirley Valentine is an uneven but generally delightful romantic comedy that has as its lead the irresistible Pauline Collins.
Collins is Shirley Valentine, the perfect match of actress and character. She starred in the one-woman show for more than a year on stage, first in a London West End production, then on Broadway.
The legit work was a monolog in which Collins, a middle-aged Liverpool housewife who yearns to drink ‘a glass of wine in a country where the grape is grown,’ described other characters and gave them life through her fanciful imagery.
In Willy Russell’s film adaptation, Shirley Valentine becomes a full-blown location shot with those and other characters now cast as separate speaking parts, mostly by other terrific British actors. Tom Conti is barely recognizable here playing a very convincing swarthy Greek tavern keeper whose specialty is the romantic sail to a secluded cove.
Shirley Valentine-Bradshaw, the mildly sour Liverpool housewife, was more entertaining than Shirley Valentine, the contented reborn woman. Even so, it would be impossible not to smile along with this very happy person as the curtain/sunset falls.
1989: Nominations: Best Actress (Pauline Collins), Song (‘The Girl Who Used To Be Me’)