Stella Does Tricks
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The film begins in a London park where a teenage girl wearing pig tails, a short, childish skirt and carrying an ice cream cone sits upon a bench beside an older man and promptly performs a sexual act for him. The girl is Stella and the "stranger" is her pimp, Mr. Peters. As harsh as it is bittersweet, this drama follows Stella as she struggles to escape her grim life as a prostitute. As she fights for her freedom, Stella's childhood in Glasgow unfolds via flashback. Also blending into her stories are her many youthful fantasies and hopeful daydreams. Stella makes the decision to escape after one of her friends is badly beaten by gang leader Fitz. She takes with her the drug-addicted Eddie, a member of Fitz's gang, but Peters does not let her off so easily and has her gang raped by his own henchmen as a sort of parting shot. Stella and Eddie return to Glasgow where she vows to get revenge upon the family members whose lack of caring led her to run away. She then settles down for a better life, only to find herself forced to again face her recent past when Peters suddenly shows up. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi
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"Stella does Tricks" was director Coky Giedroyc's first feature film. She subsequently achieved renown as a director for film and television. A young Kelly MacDonald had the leading role in this film as Stella. Other characters include James Bolan, as Stella's well-dressed, articulate and vicious pimp, Mr. Peters, and Hans Matheson as Stella's drug-dealing boyfriend, Eddie.
The movie is set in London and Glasgow. It begins in London on a park bench with a quietly sexually disturbing scene between Stella and Mr Peters. Stella's story is told in a narrative interrupted many times by flashbacks to Stella's past and by fantasies and dreams in Stella's mind. The flashbacks and fantasies can make the movie difficult to follow in places. Stella had been raised in Glasgow by her father, a mediocre stand-up comedian who had aspirations to be a singer. When her father begins to abuse her sexually, Stella runs away to London and, inevitably, is taken in by Mr. Peters. Stella dislikes the life and the tricks. When she leaves Peters, he has her gang raped. Stella slowly tries to build a life for herself. She shows continued determination to better herself by violent actions against her own abusive clients and against those of other young prostitutes in Peters' entourage. After Stella leaves Peters, she travels with Eddie to Glasgow to work a measure of revenge against her father and his rigidly self-righteous sister. Stella tries to succeed back in London by getting a job selling flowers, but Peters returns to haunt her. Stella gets a measure or revenge against Peters and, in addition, comes to see the drug-addicted and thieving Eddie for what he is. The film leaves ambiguous whether Stella will succeed in establishing a life for herself.
This a a tough, realistic film about the prostitution street life and is based in part on interviews Giedroyc and the author of the screen play, A.L. Kennedy, conducted with young working girls in London, Glasgow, and Manchester. The photography in the movie is beautifully done, with many night scenes and views of the street and the working rooms of the girls. The film has a haunting musical score. The dialogue can be difficult to follow and the sound quality tends to be muffled in places. The three-level story line of narrative, flashback, and fantasy sometimes becomes obtrusive. The highlight of the film is Kelly Macdonald in her portrayal of Stella.
This is a film about the life of a young prostitute who is aggressive and angry about her condition and who also searches for love. This bleak, raw movie has continued to win admirers following its initial release. Viewers interested in film treatments of prostitution will want to see this fine, relatively little-known movie.
Kelly McDonald (Stella) and Hans Matheson (Eddie) give stand-out performances in this feature debut by director Corky Giedroyc. McDonald and Matheson are sensitively waif-like, vulnerable, and utterly embraceable, as two down-trodden, drug-addicted prostitutes attempting to make the best of their young, shattered lives. Their emotional facial expressions comprise the bulk of writer A.L. Kennedy's concise dialogue. Giedroyc chose to film Stella amongst the squalid streets of Prague, slashing the scene-scapes with a distorted use of chiaroscuro, and real addict-prostitutes, whom the actors worked with prior to filming. This gives Stella Does Tricks an authentic ambiance of desperation, alienation, loneliness, and despair.