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Home > Film

Robin Ince's Top 30,000 Films Of All Time

#29,995: Gregory's Two Girls

23 May 2003

As any good film historian - Mark Cousins for instance - knows, teenagers were invented by John Hughes in the 1980s. Yes, there had been some teenagers previously (in the 1950s for instance, when they were all rebelling and listening to pork bellied, kiss curled Bill Haley, but most of them were played by 35 year olds or Elvis Presley). John Hughes created a whole generation of actors, who thanks to his kindly hand, would end up in bar brawls, rehab and poor quality sitcoms before they were in their mid-twenties. His teenagers were sullen, wore fingerless leather gloves and had Morrissey pictures on their walls - truly they were the dispossessed.

There were those who believed that John Hughes had a message of teenage emancipation, but let us not forget his answers to the problems of individuality as demonstrated in The Breakfast Club (Isn't that bloke who got raped by a gorilla in Trading Places good as the duff-legged teacher?)


Ally Sheedy represented the goth girl (cleverly each one of Mr Hughes's teenagers represented a different sort of teen - the jock, the peaches and cream prom queen and so forth), she seemed to have a morbid outlook with her black clothes and dandruff, but the way forward was so simple when presented to her by Molly Ringwald (note to starlets, change name if sounds like skin condition), just clean yourself up and where pretty white lacey things - a message to all who do not want to conform, stop being so silly and making a show of yourself; oh, and stop dressing in trenchcoats and shooting people.

So, The Breakfast Club was the film that shaped the mediocre mid-80s teen film scene that is so fondly remembered (soundtrack by Glenn Frey) and launched a 1000 lines being chopped on a mirror reflecting an increasingly distraught actor's unemployed face.

But a few years before John Hughes was inventing teenagers, a filmmaker in Scotland had a go. Gregory's Girl was a funny, simple and sometimes surreal film about a teenage boy's crush on a female footballer.


John Gordon Sinclair was marvelously gawky, Chic Murray (an outstanding Scottish comedian and hero of Billy Connolly's - "We've got stained glass windows in our house. It's those damned pigeons") was great as a droll and eccentric headteacher, and Clare Grogan was in it - Clare Grogan, the choice for many boys' first crush, impish and pretty but not threatening like Debbie Harry or hairy and smelly like Patti Smith or Noele Gordon.


Gregory's Girl came out just as another British film renaissance supposedly began and for awhile toured the dying fleapits as part of a double bill with Chariots of Fire. 20 years on, it remains a fresh film about teenage schooldays and young, imperfect love. Clare Grogan has had a career of ups and downs since (on the downside she did have to work with Craig Charles on Red Dwarf), John Gordon Sinclair now promotes a wide range of frozen produce and loyalty cards, and Dee Hepburn, Gregory's original object of desire, is supposedly, after a brief stint in the old Crossroads, a sales rep for a drug company (at least according to a song by a man called Alistair Bishop).


Well that's how things turned out in real life, but what about the fictional world of Gregory? For those intrigued, Bill Forsyth was kind enough to make a sequel, picking up the story strands 20 years on - and in doing so, he managed to puke all over the memory of Gregory's Girl.

How Bill Forsyth, the maker of witty Scottish, and later American, films managed to lose it to such an extent can possibly be traced to David Puttnam, once the silver bearded face of British Film Year, his harsh bristles so often seen gently pricking the soft flesh of Richard Attenborough's face in photos promoting British Film Year, now chairman of The National Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts and correctly addressed as Lord Puttnam of Queensgate.

Bill Forsyth's career began with That Sinking Feeling, a miniscule budgeted rainy day bored teens caper movie involving stainless steel sinks - though the Glaswegian dialect was strong enough to knock an audience off its chewing gum covered seat, it was an arthouse success, so he got funding for Gregory's Girl,
which in turn led to the likes of Local Hero and eventually Breaking In, a very underrated Burt Reynolds film scripted by John Sayles.

It was the next step that shoved Bill Forsyth directly into a trough of manure. As you may know, David Puttnam was briefly put in charge of Paramount Pictures, upon arriving he boldly stated that he was going to shake up wasteful Hollywood, and wasteful Hollywood bought him a ticket home. The projects he had greenlit were generally put in the compactor and those that were actually in full production received tatty treatment. One such project was Being Human - a film that looked at four different ages of man and how his weakness and indecision led to his lack of fulfillment and unhappiness, Robin Williams was the man (which didn't help), after much tampering the film was a disaster and Bill Forsyth would not make another film for 6 years. Sadly it would be Gregory's Two Girls.

Anyone expecting the loose-limbed charm of Gregory's Girl is not led on for too long, we start with Gregory about to lock lips in the locker room with an underage girl whilst outraged teachers bang on the gym door, ah, but it is only a dream and Gregory, now 35, awakes in his lonely bed with a damp lump of sperm oozing through his pyjamas - how lovely.

Gregory is now a teacher intent on teaching his protégés about globalization through the works of Noam Chomsky, and still hoping to have sex with a 15 year old girl footballer. Meanwhile an old schoolfriend of Gregory's returns to the area with his electronic and computer company in tow (not a schoolfriend who was involved in the first film, just to make life easier for everyone who missed it). The only problem is that his company also makes highly effective and economical torture equipment for despots, something that Noam Chomsky and Gregory's more zealous pupils clearly feel is a trifle wrong. On top of that, Gregory seems to be being watched by a peculiar swarthy fellow and his dog. Initially hoping to invade his young football girl, Gregory instead finds himself becoming a warrior in the war against torture.

Whereas Gregory's Girl was a simple tale, this inferior offspring is packed with too much plot and far too many characters who have just enough personality to act as a cipher for whichever part of the cinematic message Bill Forsyth is trying to get across. There are moments of humour, though they are far baser than before. Gregory, accused of improper conduct by the headmaster and some outraged parents, attempts to explain why he has been out in the park with his pupil. His alibi, given to him with a one word clue by the pupil, is badgers. Unfortunately, Gregory has put a damp piece of paper in his pocket, so as he creates a story of badger watching (same alibi used by Ron Davies when accused of lay-by sex with a builder earlier this year) it appears his trousers are again stained with dampness; then to make matters worse he says beaver instead of badger - welcome to Honkers Academy.

Had this film been merely about Gregory's 35 year old lusty confusions, there is the woman he should love, attractive, intelligent and his age, and there is the girl he wishes to acquire to somehow keep a tenuous hold on youth, it could have held some interest, but the clumsily handled anti-corporate message leads to a very messy movie. John Gordon Sinclair still does geeky pretty well, Carly McKinnon is a better actress than Dee Hepburn and it is certainly a film that means well, but sadly this is the worst sequel since The Last Seduction 2.

(What do you mean you haven't seen The Last Seduction 2? - the filmmakers couldn't afford to film in New York, so used Cardiff instead, but it looks like New York because every so often someone rollerblades into shot. An elegant solution).

Gregory's Two Girls is available on a double disc with Gregory's Girl from Amazon. It doesn't have a director's commentary, but I am prepared to come to your house and tut as you watch it if that helps.

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