Powder Room (2013) – Review

Not going to spend too long on this as my slots are filling up rapidly and to suggest that the urination scene that opens the film is a pre-cursor for the overall quality of the project is not really unfair.

Starring (unfortunately) one of my favourite comedy actresses of the last decade or two, Sheridan Smith, this tale of a girls night out, meeting up with old friends and telling stories, mostly within the confines of a ladies bathroom, will tickle the funny bones only of those who like their entertainment shallow enough to wade in.

I was going to suggest that this would be much better served as a stage play, but on closer inspection , discovered that this was adapted from exactly that, entitled ‘When Women Wee’. The orginal title gives a better heads up of the content prior to choosing whether to rent the dvd or not. Populated almost entirely by women of a certain mindset (free, hedonistic and often scary), this is more in keeping with Smith’s earlier career, with the likes of ‘Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’ being a prime example, dredging the most British of common denominators; toilet humour, fart gags and thinly-veiled sexual innuendo.

It’s probably unfair of this reviewer to pass judgement on a film that is so far removed from the demographic this is intended to reach, but nevertheless, I still remain stoic in my unbiased, rational and common-sense approach to all film, regardless of the perceived recipients of the film-makers themselves.

The cast are eminently believable and represent possibly the worst view of young women in a modern, contemporary Britain, but still realistic and disarmingly honest. I have never spent too much time in the female toilets of nightclubs, even in my youth (okay, maybe once or twice, before making a hasty retreat and then checking the signs a second time), but the mystery that is no doubt still whispered by young men of a certain age, when anticipating the imminent return of their significant other, is now lost forever. You might be forced to admit after watching this, that we were better off not knowing all along.

Smith’s performance as Sam, a young woman with ambition enough to try and raise the bar regarding her circle of friends, but enough heart to want to retain the old ones, regardless of the potential embarassment they may cause, is well delivered and her moral quandry is evident on more than one occasion. Seemingly trying to juggle at least two hats, Sam seems too eager to please, uncomfortable in most groups, not really having a comfortable place to rest her social weariness. The story that she weaves can only ever unravel, but do we really care about her enough to feel bad for her? Smith is engaging to a point, but maybe not quite far enough.

Though most of the running time takes place in the toilets, there are brief flirtations with the outside world and the club itself, a cacophony of heavy beats, grating riffs, neon glare and youthful exuberant sweat, so if you can get over the ugly depiction of added-value budget excess, the vomit, the pissing and general unpleasantness, there is an admirable character study hidden beneath, that borders on the angst and paranoia experienced by the likes of Bridget Jones, but without any of the inherent sugar-coating.

The writing particularly is good enough to bring back memories from my younger days of dalliances with some of the types of girls featured here, so Rachiel Hirons and Natasha Sparkes should be applauded in this department. If anything, this is a little too real to be cinematically palatable for me personally, though late teens may leave the film with an entirely different opinion. If I want to watch young women like these get drunk and/or make fools of themselves, then I need only travel a few miles from my front door in practically any direction. This doesn’t mean I’m going to, however.

Powder Room is in your face, certainly, but it’s probably got too much No.7 on, the fake tan lines are showing and it’s had at least one Bacardi Breezer too many.

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