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`SHIRLEY VALENTINE’ LOSES MUCH OF ITS HEART IN DULL SCREEN ADAPTATION

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SHIRLEY VALENTINE **

Pauline Collins, Tom Conti, Joanna Lumley, Bernard Hill; rated R (profanity, nudity, sex); exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Trolley Square Theaters.

Pauline Collins recreates her Tony-winning one-woman stage role in "Shirley Valentine," an "opened-up" film adaptation of the play that has her actually going to Greece instead of simply talking about it.Despite Collins' delightful performance, however - along with gorgeous location photography - the result is a film that has a few wonderful moments and a lot of diffuse, dull ones.

Shirley Valentine Bradshaw is going through a midlife crisis. She's in her early 40s, her two children have grown up and gone away, her husband has allowed himself to get into a boring rut - and he's a supreme male chauvinist pig to boot - and Shirley is looking for a way out.

But she's afraid. She's tired of being taken for granted as a homemaker who is expected to serve tea promptly at six o'clock and prepare a steak dinner every Thursday, but she's unskilled and afraid she won't survive alone.

Then a friend wins a pair of tickets to Greece for a two-week vacation and asks Shirley to join her. Shirley is at first reluctant to leave her husband - which is actually just the fear of doing something new - but in the end she does go and, naturally, finds herself off on a voyage of self-discovery.

That's the plot, but "Shirley Valentine" is hardly a plot-driven film. Shirley speaks directly to the camera, spouts all kinds of humorous homilies and even shows us in flashback what her childhood was like at a girls' prep school. Back then she was a wisecracking rebel, but over the years she has settled for simply being a wisecracker.

When she gets to Greece, Shirley becomes somewhat more bohemian, takes up with a Greek bar owner (Tom Conti) and has a brief fling before deciding to alter her life altogether.

All of this probably worked quite well as anecdotal vignettes described by Collins alone on a stage, but in attempting to tell the story with characters and a chronological narrative, some of the charm was lost amid dull dialogue exchanges and encounters with stereotypical characters.

The performances are all quite good - especially Collins', whose character fits her like a glove - but despite a few laughs and a few insights here and there, sadly, for the most part "Shirley Valentine" just limps along and never quite kicks into gear.

It is rated R for profanity, a sex scene and nudity in two scenes.