Teasingly titled but hardly making it to first base, “Women Talking Dirty” is an embarrassing sophomore stumble by Brit director Coky Giedroyc after her striking bow three years ago with the gritty “Stella Does Tricks.” Desperately peppy, disappointingly free of dirty talk and overall about as believable as thesp Helena Bonham Carter’s Scottish accent, pic is another example of a movie whose faults are in direct proportion to the number of producers, with no clear idea of what it wants to be and a script that thrashes around like a drowning cat. A rapid segue to ancillary seems these women’s likeliest fate.
Set in Edinburgh, the movie uses the ploy of Ellen (Gina McKee), a successful cartoonist, inviting her friends to a post-divorce party for a series of flashbacks that fill in her backstory and that of her best pal, Cora (Bonham Carter). The quieter of the pair, Ellen was married to smooth charmer Daniel (James Purefoy) for three years; Cora’s longest relationship was with Frenchman Claude (Julien Lambroschini) for 10 months, which left her a single mother.
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A measure of the script’s originality is the inclusion in the character mix of two gay friends — without which no modern relationships ensembler would be complete — Ronald and George (Richard Wilson, Kenneth Cranham), who’ve been a devoted couple for 20 years. Ahh.
Per flashbacks, Daniel turned out to be a dyed-in-the-wool gambler who was always on the run from moneylenders and Claude a fly-by-night lover who upped and left when Cora became pregnant. Ellen and Cora also turn out be linked in more ways than just a chance friendship — the revelation of which, an hour into the movie, provokes a split between the two women.
Isla Dewar’s hollow script, based on her novel, posits the kind of female friendship in which nothing’s too serious that can’t be cured by hitting the vodka. This would be fine if the movie succeeded in maintaining the ditzy comic tone that Bonham Carter’s perf, the poppy soundtrack and bright, strong colors in the clothes and production design constantly signal. But the dialogue simply isn’t fizzy enough, or Giedroyc’s direction focused enough, to bring such a movie off.
Bonham Carter’s determined kookiness, all multicolored locks and klutzy behavior, becomes progressively irritating, though she does have one genuinely funny scene — of frantic childbirth — that hints at what the movie could have been. McKee, one of Blighty’s most talented rising actresses (“Notting Hill ,” “Wonderland”), is too restrained and quiet throughout. On the male side, Purefoy is good as the duplicitous, charming Daniel and James Nesbitt OK as Ellen’s boss, who carries a torch for Cora. Eileen Atkins has a relatively small part as a tart elder friend of the two women.
Brian Tufano’s good, sharp lensing neatly contrasts the snappy colors of the women’s lives with the gray/ocher exteriors of stony Edinburgh, and Simon Boswell’s arrangements of the music by Elton John (whose Rocket Pictures co-produced) are smooth. Scottish accents occasionally require concentration; on print caught, some of the dialogue in unlooped sequences was less than clear.