One of my favourite ways to get a little mum time is to head to the cinema for sheer escapism. But with limited movies that appeal to me and males focused super heroes, adventure and drama films dominating the cinema screen at the moment, it was a breath of fresh air to catch a screening of the Australian directed film, ‘Ladies in Black’.
Adapted from the book by Madeleine St John, the film is set in Sydney in 1959 and focuses on a group of women who work in the ladies department at Goodes (a ficticious, upmarket department store). Directed by Bruce Beresford of Breaker Morant and Driving Miss Daisy fame, he apparently went to Sydney University with St John.
We peak into the lives of the different shop assistants employed at Goodes including 16 year old Lesley who is employed to help with the Christmas rush. She is quickly appointed to Model Gowns which is headed up by Slovenian refugee Magda (Julia Ormond) who takes Lesley (or Lisa to which Lesley names herself as Lesley is a boy’s name) under her wing both in store and outside of Goodes.
Other cast members include; Susie Porter as Lisa’s supportive mother, Shane Jacobson as Lisa’s loving but old fashioned and chauvinistic father, Rachel Taylor as Fay Baines; a young woman looking for love outside of the “typical” Aussie bloke, Alison McGirr as Patty Williams; a married woman who works with the ladies at Goodes and Ryan Corr as Rudi Janosi; a well educated and classy Hungarian who is looking for an Australian girlfriend.
Other guest appearances include Noni Hazlehurst as Miss Cartwright and Nicholas Hammond (of Sound of Music fame) as Mr Ryder who both have senior positions at Goodes.
Under the wing of Magda, we see mousey yet brainy Lisa transform into a beautiful young woman who is waiting for her exam results to see what her future holds. Her goal is to gain a position at university, something that many of the women around her would never have thought possible for women at that time. Her father is quite against it and can’t understand why she wants to become an educated woman in Sydney.
Madga introduces her to her refugee friends giving her a new insight culturally into white Australia which she knows quite well. We also meet sophisticated Rudi, a friend of Madga’s husband from Hungary who is also on the lookout for an Australian girlfriend. With careful thought and collaboration, Magda and Lisa come up with the perfect person to introduce to Rudi.
Ladies in Black’s storyline is light and airy and although there are a few problematic story lines occurring for some of the characters, there is nothing too harrowing that detracts from the loveliness of the film. The underpinning racism and gender inequality that existed in the 1950’s shows that we haven’t really come too far over the last 60 years. However the relaxed storyline and glorious setting of the movie seemed to outshine any negative themes portrayed in the film. It was great to escape to a time where electronic media didn’t dominate conversations and fun was created with music and dance. A time when you met potential partners through others instead of perusing the online dating apps.
Ladies in Black was a breath a fresh air with innocent comedic one liners, romance and inspirational achievements from women of all backgrounds. This is definitely one movie to see with the girls!