Sunday, December 4, 2011

Movie – Janice Beard 45 WPM (1999)

Janice Beard 45 WPM is a small, low budget British film.  I’ve read more than one comparison to Bridget Jones’ Diary, which seems rather odd to me.  Both movies are office-based comedies with women as the lead characters, but the similarity pretty much ends there.  I would describe Janice Beard 45 WPM as one part Amelie (2001), one part industrial espionage, one part outsider trying to fit in, and just a dash of Die Hard (1988).

The movie stars Eileen Walsh (The Magdalene Sisters) as Janice Beard.  Right from the beginning she had a rough life – her father died in childbirth.  This left her mother as the world’s only sufferer of post-natal post-mortem depression.  As a result her mother has not left the house for the last 20-some years.

Janice grew up with a huge imagination.  She would tell her mother stories about her day to keep her entertained.  She would try various schemes with her friend to trick her mother out of the house.  One involves the friend faking a seizure while Janice pretends to have her foot stuck in a bucket.  Nothing works on the mother, but Janice doesn’t give up.  She decides to leave home to seek out her fortune, come back rich, and get her mother the medical treatment she needs.  She leaves the suburbs of Edinburgh for the big city of London.

She ends up in a series of temporary jobs.  As the title tells you, her secretarial skills are marginal at best.  Also, let’s just say that concentrating on the task at hand is not Janice’s strength.  Her imagination keeps her mind wandering all over the place.  She is constantly making video tapes about her life to mail home to her mother, just like the stories she used to tell when she was little.

One day she runs into her old friend from the neighborhood.  This friend gets Janice a temp job in the secretarial pool at the car company where she works.  The company is counting down to the launch of a new car that is hoped will bring back automobile making to Great Britain. 

Janice is immediately the odd girl out.  The other women in the pool are a tight knit group of women ruled over by the head of the pool, played by Patsy Kensit (Absolute Beginners, Angels and Insects).  This woman will decide if Janice’s job becomes a permanent one or not, and Janice may have made an enemy by not brownnosing her like the other women.

Janice’s eye quickly catches sight of the office mail boy, played by Rhys Ifans (Notting Hill).  It’s love at first sight for her, but he doesn’t seem to notice her much, even when she’s awkward around him.  He ends up getting to know Janice better, but not for the right reasons.  This is where the industrial espionage comes in.  There are rivals to this car company that do not want to see it succeed.

Janice continues to tell her stories: she grew up in Colombia; she’s been to Iran; she speaks Italian; etc.  She sends her mother a tape showing her in her new flat (with the grown up friend still helping her to trick her mother).  It turns out she is filming it in a model kitchen in a department store.

My favorite scene in the movie is where it looks like Janice is going to get caught in one of her made up stories by her boss.  The other women in the office have been taking a salsa class Tuesdays with a handsome instructor.  Janice claims she has been taking private classes with him on Thursday, because she knew the instructor when they were both little in Colombia.  Janice shows up at the Tuesday class and her boss introduces her to the instructor to catch her out in her story.  How Janice deals with this is a great scene and really gets to the heart of who she is.

I mentioned the movies Amelie and Die Hard.  The part that reminded me of Amelie is her childhood where her imagination kept her going strong.  In addition, both Amelie and Janice have a parent they are trying to break out of their rut and go out and see the world.  The Die Hard part comes in when Janice has to take to the air ducts to try to get to an important location before something big happens.

Is Janice Beard 45 WPM as good as either Amelie or Die Hard?  No, but any movie that has me laughing out loud as the closing credits start to roll has to be good enough to recommend.  By the way, stick through the credits for a 2-3 second reprise of the final scene.

If you don’t like quirky British comedies then you should probably avoid this movie. However, if you like comedies about irrepressible characters who are not going to let things get them down, then this is the movie for you.  Give it a try and I think you’ll like it.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

[Note – you can see all the Movies by Numbers, as well as get some hints on what’s to come, at this link.]



  1. Great and unexpected countdown here Chip! Lots of films I haven't seen and some obscure choices in my movie knowledge! I like the originality and how it makes you discover lesser known films!

  2. @Michael - Thanks. It's made me search out movies I haven't seen yet, such as the one above.