Monday, 6 February 2012

When Bailey Met Shrimpton

Its been a week and I admit I've been neglectful, so here is a short analysis of 'We'll Taken Manhattan' which was on BBC4 a few weeks ago. The tone of it is negative which, on reflection is harsh, I actually quite enjoyed the drama and I though Aneurin Barnard was great as David Bailey. Have a read and see what you think.

It was described as a drama about the love affair between photographer David Bailey and model Jean Shrimpton. Set in 1962, the year both model and photographer traveled to New York for a Vogue fashion shoot where they managed to change the world of fashion, but only after many arguments with their fashion editor.

At first glance, this drama felt like a snap shot of a much bigger story and that it had been condensed so it was easy to watch. In the first few scenes, it was obvious that time needed to pass rapidly, so the audience could get to the main point of the story. The introductions of both David Bailey (Aneurin Barnard) and Jean Shrimpton (Karen Gillian) gave the exact impression that the audience needed to see. The generation of that time would have known all about David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton, their love affair and how they changed fashion. But it felt that this particular drama was aimed at a younger generation, who needed to be told what to think about these people, and it came across as the bare minimum. 

After the introductions, the characters felt underwritten, the story continued but the characters barely changed. Having been sold ‘an explosive love affair’ it was disappointing to watch the basic passion the two leads had for each other. The dialogue between them was dreamy and dry, it seemed as if the actors were given a few things to say and that was it but it was obvious they wanted to say more. The fact that Bailey ended his marriage over his affair with Shrimpton didn’t come across to the audience at all, meaning there was hardly any attention given to their love affair. 

In terms of story the script worked well, on the surface; girl meets photographer, fall in love, go to Manhattan, change fashion, become icons in history. For an British audience, setting a drama in the past is always going to successful and adding New York is usually a good sign too that it will have a good story. But the script rather underplays Manhattan, which is odd as it’s in the title. Landmarks are mentioned in the script as they are where the photographs were taken but there just feels like a lack of enthusiasm for the city. Culture clash is hinted at briefly in a diner when Bailey wants chips but Shrimpton has to intervene and say “He means fries, sorry we’re British”. To emphasise this ‘clash” would have brightened up the script and a metaphor. A clash of cultures as well as creative ideas between Bailey and Lady Clare. 

Whereas there are weakness’ in the characters and the location, the strengths of the script lies within the basic storyline but mainly with the interaction between Lady Clare (Helen McCrory) and David Bailey. The focus on her ideals of the past and his creative ideas of the future are riveting. The scenes where they discuss, or argue about what is best for the shoot and what the readers want feels more like the centre of the whole drama as there seems more passion in Baileys speeches about photography than there is with his romantic scenes with Shrimpton. In this instance Bailey and Lady Clare’s characters don’t seem under written, because of the passion and determination they share about fashion, it is the ultimate creative clash that should be explored in detail but within the time limit does come across to the audience as, the turning point in fashion. The script is successful with this point coming across.

Overall the weakness’ in the script such as the characters lacking depth and the location of the title being underused, out weight the strengths of the creative clash of ideas within the script. It is a good period piece set in the 60’s and is a great example, even though it feels brief, of an icon changing an industry for the better.

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