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STELLA DOES TRICKS

SYNOPSIS:
Stella (MacDonald) lives with several other girls in a low-rent B&B belonging to her pimp, Mr Peters (Bolam) who treats her with an unpredictable mixture of kindness and cruelty. She goes from one low rent client to another, haunted by childhood memories of her stand up comedian father McGuire (Stewart) and strict Auntie Aileen (Joyce Henderson) in Glasgow. When her best friend Belle (Faulkner) is attacked by a local drug dealer, Fitz (Serkis), Stella sets out to take revenge, accompanied by her new-found hustler boyfriend, Eddie (Matheson). Peters gets wind of her exploit and offers her a choice: clean up her act and stay – or leave. She leaves, but Peters makes a cruel example of her. Distraught, Stella shacks up with Eddie, and drags him to Glasgow with her, where she seeks revenge.

"The cinematic devices used in this saddening film are effective and valid, a mixture of flash-back and fantasy, evoking both past events and present imaginings. This is metaphorically appropriate, since the dramatic touch-points of the relationship between the teenage Stella and her older man pimp/controller rely on their disparate and desperate needs for ‘dreams’. Nick Bicat’s evocative score for soul-o guitar (insistently reminiscent of Neil Young’s work for Jim Jarmusch’s memorable, Dead Man) is stirring. However, despite these blessings and the stand out performances, the film ultimately falls short of delivering us out of the darkness, partly because of its obfuscating ending, a case perhaps of trying too hard. The ugliness surrounding Stella, her unfortunate start in life and unlucky progress through it, make for downbeat viewing, but with no real sense of a journey to make it worthwhile. Of course it has relevance by the bucketful, its Glaswegian bleakness thrust at the screen with drug-loaded carelessness. But that – indeed, all of that – is not always enough to create a film that masters its subject, giving us a new insight into the human condition. I’ve already seen what there is in Stella Does Tricks, and I don’t mean to be a smart-arse cynic; it’s just that in Stella’s story, I find nothing that teaches me more than I already know. It does not fire my imagination. I feel sad for her – but that is not the point."
Andrew L. Urban

"Disturbing, poignant and tragic, Stella Does Tricks is a passionately told story, well constructed, but wavers somewhat towards the end. The structure of Stella’s story told in flashback is cinematically appealing, as we go from her life on the streets to her troubled childhood. The performances are terrific - with Kelly Macdonald, child-like, vulnerable, complex and vindictive all at once. Her relationship with her pimp (James Bolam, haunting) is filled with conflict - while she depends and relies on him, she despises him and what he forces her to become; Hans Matheson is convincing as Eddie. But it’s really images of Kelly Macdonald as Stella with an ice cream cone, sitting beside the leering Mr Peters, that will stay with you. There are so many good things about Stella Does Tricks, that I was rather disappointed that Stella’s catharsis did not eventuate in a clear and more positive resolution. Then again, maybe that’s the point. Either way, Kelly Macdonald’s performance alone is worth the visit."
Louise Keller

"A major highlight of numerous film festivals, Stella Does Tricks is a confronting yet rewarding film about a young girl caught up in a world from which she’s endeavouring to flee. Through the amazing and brave performance by new Scottish star-on-the-rise Kelly MacDonald, Stella Does Tricks is as much about confronting the past and facing a new future, than it is about the violent pitfalls of prostitution. A chilling and provocative tale, the film doesn’t attempt to gloss over the issues, but rather face them head on. This is certainly MacDonald’s film and she delivers a remarkably mature and confident performance in a tough role. While James Bolam, familiar to British audiences for his more comedic work, is superb as the brutal pimp. Though similar to Scotland’s Trainspotting, Stella is not as clever a film, perhaps, but it’s still a powerful and mature work from a growing Scottish industry. It has a haunting resonance and power that keeps one thinking of it hours later. Though not for everyone, Stella Does Tricks is a remarkable and haunting film."
Paul Fischer

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CRITICAL COUNT:
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

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See Paul Fischer's interview with
KELLY MacDONALD

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STELLA DOES TRICKS (R)
(UK)

 

CAST: Kelly MacDonald, James Bolam, Hans Metheson, Ewan Stewart, Andy Serkis, Joyce Henderson, Richard Syms, Lindsay Henderson, Paul Chahidi

DIRECTOR: Coky Giedroyc

PRODUCER: Adam Barker

SCRIPT: Alison Kennedy

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Barry Ackroyd

EDITOR: Budge Tremlett

MUSIC: Nick Bicat (additional music Tony Thorpe)

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lynne Whiteread

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

 

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: New Vision

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 1998







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