Life Is Sweet | Chicago Reader

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This 1991 film is British writer-director Mike Leigh at his near best—that is, not quite as good as High Hopes, but still a must-see. Most of the focus here is on a dysfunctional family consisting of a compulsively cheerful mother (Alison Steadman), a pipe-dreaming father (Jim Broadbent) who works as a chef, and twin daughters, one a well-adjusted plumber (Claire Skinner), the other an anorexic-bulimic malcontent (Jane Horrocks) in a perpetual state of agitation. To round out the thematic concern with food, there's also family friend Aubrey (Timothy Spall), a rather pathetic entrepreneur who attempts to open a gourmet restaurant. As in High Hopes, Leigh boldly accords different kinds and levels of stylization to his characters—Aubrey is handled much more parodically than the others—and the volatile mixture works. What starts off as sitcom material gradually widens to encompass a tragicomic story of complex characters and subtle interactions.

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