Lady Godiva Review
I don’t suppose there are many people who haven’t heard of Lady Godiva, or at least know that she was that woman who once rode naked on a horse. Which is exactly how this film begins, with a pretty young woman disrobing, mounting her white horse, and riding through the muddy streets of Coventry. Wasn’t it lucky that long hair was fashionable in the middle ages, and that it could be conveniently draped to hide any naughty bits?
The medieval tomfoolery is soon over though, and the scene shifts to modern day Oxford, where Jemima Honey (Thomas) is working as an art teacher in a snobby private school and dreaming of rebuilding the Art Factory, a education centre that she set up with her dead brother. Jemima’s mother (Markham) doesn’t approve, blaming Jemima and the Art Factory for James’s death.
Michael (Chambers) is a local horse-breeder who has written a book about the Godiva legend, inspired by his favourite horse, the grey thoroughbred Lady. Jemima dismisses him as a playboy, but their paths keep crossing. One evening, when Jemima has finally given in to her mother’s nagging, she goes to clear up the Art Factory; Michael sees the lights and goes to investigate. He introduces her to Lady, gives her a riding lesson in the rain, and turns up at school a few days later in a purple helicopter, encouraging her to leave her less than inspiring job and rebuild the Art Factory. With his support, Jemima starts to believe that it can actually happen.
But the course of true love never did run smooth. Jemima is humiliated by Michael’s ex, a tv presenter; after a fight, Michael bets a reporter ?100,000 that she won’t ride naked through the city and, determined to get back at him, Jemima accepts.
If this all sounds like a farrago of nonsense, believe me, it is. It’s a shame as the performances aren’t bad but the script is just silly. Vicky Jewson wrote the script when she was only 21 and raised the money to make it herself; I applaud her courage and determination but wish she’d spent a bit longer on the development process. The main story makes no sense – in order to get to the point where Jemima rides naked through the streets, the script has to tie itself up in knots.
It’s the kind of film that, as you’re watching it, makes you ask yourself why, again and again – why does Michael’s horse wear a bridle all the time, even in the stable; why, when the horse is ill, does no-one call for a vet; why is Jemima’s mum such a bitch; why doesn’t Michael wear a riding hat; why would someone drive through the countryside to get a Chinese when they live in the city; why does the film appear to condone bullying, and why oh why oh why oh why does it introduce a dreadful subplot about Prince William?
At the end of the film, when a passerby on Magdalen Bridge asks what’s going on, I felt that he spoke for the entire audience. Not only does Jemima ride naked through the city, but she does a ‘raunchy’ strip tease first. Another why. Phoebe Thomas is attractive and does her best, but Jemima is so woefully underwritten that she often comes across as a bit dim. When she finally does mount the horse, I was mostly concerned that the stirrup leathers would pinch.
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