Athenae’s Latest Crush


No doubt about it: “The Girl in the Cafe” is the best romantic comedy set at a G-8 summit you’re ever likely to see. But it’s more than that. Besides packing a weighty message significant reduction in global poverty and infant mortality is now within the grasp of world leaders this lovely film can hold its own against any love story as it depicts a mismatched couple struggling to connect.

The winsome, enigmatic girl, Gina, is played by Scottish actress Kelly Macdonald, and makes an ideally unexpected soul mate for Lawrence, the lonely, middle-aged British bureaucrat played to perfection by Bill Nighy (“Love Actually” and the Peabody Award-winning BBC miniseries “State of Play”).

Exploring matters of the heart, “The Girl in the Cafe” (which premieres 8 p.m. EDT Saturday on HBO) has a timeless flavor engagingly at odds with the urgency of its mission. It is pegged to an event it dramatizes in its own heroic terms that will take place for real on July 6 the leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful countries convene in Scotland for the Group of Eight summit.

At that gathering, President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the heads of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia will vote on whether to allocate sufficient money to help impoverished African countries.

“This film is an attempt to lobby the eight men who will sit in one room and could literally save hundreds of millions of lives,” says Nighy.

I was prepared to love it anyway because of my undying adoration of Bill Nighy and the sort of loose-limbed way he walks (strange things cause me to melt). But I find after watching and rewatching and trying to figure, I just can’t get it out of my head.

It’s a bit silly; I’m a well-informed person. It shouldn’t take a movie to get me to give a shit about world poverty and the staggering amout of apathy and arrogance we display in ignoring it as we yammer on about getting ours. But sometimes, as with a series of concerts, it takes entertainment to get our attention, get us to focus in moments that would otherwise be devoted to our everlasting search for leisure and peace from the world.

I think what most appealed to me about it is that it illuminated a subject on which I frequently ramble at you all: the value of speaking up, even when you don’t think it’ll do any good, even when you know it’s falling on deaf ears, even if you don’t think your voice will carry beyond the empty room in which you sit, because you never know what effect your words might have. You never know where the reach of your voice ends.

Catch the film if you can.


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