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Powder Room - Review

Powder Room

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

MJ DELANEY’S female driven comedy may be designed as a feel-good expose of what really goes on in ladies’ toilets but it struggles to keep minds occupied.

Based on Rachel Hirons’ Edinburgh Fringe Festival hit When Women Wee, the film adopts a more conventional narrative approach than the play’s vignettes but still struggles to escape its stage roots. Worse, it often feels like a bad TV sitcom – and that’s despite the best efforts of a game British cast.

The story finds Sam (Sheridan Smith) out for a night and desperate to impress two sophisticated new friends, Jess (Oona Chaplin) and Michelle (Kate Nash). This she attempts by simultaneously trying to avoid her existing friends (whose number include Jaime Winstone’s brash, promiscuous Chanel) and lying about herself.

But the longer the night lasts, the harder Sam finds it keeping things together and she soon finds herself losing control of her life and her sanity.

Delaney’s film is set largely within the confines of a nightclub toilet (bar a few scenes in the actual club or the smoking area outside) and mainly focuses on Sam’s disastrous attempts to ‘improve’ her social standing.

But while anchored by a typically strong and nicely layered central performance from Smith, and eye-catching support from Chaplin and Nash, Powder Room squanders most of its potential.

The comedy often feels forced and obvious – never more so than during a derivative getting high scene involving two of Sam’s drug experimenting friends – while a lot of the dramatic turns feel contrived.

The film’s stage origins are also exposed during Smith’s big breakdown scene, which can’t help but make you think that the whole endeavour should have stayed within the confines of theatre where the single set structure wouldn’t appear so restrictive.

Delaney, who made a name for herself with the Jay-Z spoof video Newport State of Mind on YouTube (now removed), does attempt to compensate by adding some flashy visuals and breaking some scenes up with live songs by the girl band Fake Club.

But as hard as everyone tries, Powder Room just can’t seem to escape the inevitability of being panned by underwhelmed viewers.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 86mins
UK Release Date: December 6, 2013