Rotten Johnny

It's a stretch that the woman lets the stranger in, and her passivity and acquiescence in the face of his insults lacks the tension of credibility. The film has slipped out of Leigh's control by this point. He's famous for his method with actors, and for using them to help generate his story as he goes along. This works well enough when nothing much is supposed to happen, when we're simply getting an eyeful of working-class life, but in Naked he's attempting something more complicated. The stories he has put into motion need to intersect and build just so, or they die. And purely in terms of story, die is what the movie nearly does. I gave it up for lost when Leigh introduced a couple of thoroughly unbelievable and eventually pointless characters: a fatuously woman-hating realtor and a fatuously inarticulate roommate to Louise, whom Johnny eventually staggers back to.

But when Naked reassembles its original trio -- the brutal, brilliant and unpredictable Johnny, the pleasant, slightly bovine Louise and the pathetic Sophie -- the film gets off its deathbed and back on its feet. Cartlidge becomes finally very funny as the love-struck love slave Sophie, though we are definitely laughing at her, not with her. Louise's well-hidden charm is finally revealed -- it consists largely of patience -- and Johnny gets a final chance to bare his ferocious soul.

Johnny plays as a philosophical cousin to the Depardieu character of Going Places, or even Brando's admittedly more romantic lost soul in Last Tango in Paris, but he doesn't have the same dense movie surrounding him that those other characters enjoy.

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