Keep Smiling (Gaigimet) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/09/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 91 mins

Keep Smiling is a rough-edged comedy-drama that's both darkly funny and genuinely moving, thanks to a sharply written script and strong performances from its ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Written and directed by Rusudan Chkonia, Keep Smiling (or Gaigimet, original title fans) is a Georgian comedy-drama set in present-day Tbilisi, where ten 20-to-30 something women (the majority of whom live in poverty) decide to enter a televised ‘Georgia Mother 2010’ contest in the hopes of winning the $25,000 prize and a coveted apartment. The contestants include: former violin prodigy Gvantsa (Iamze Sukhitsashvili), her jealous, disapproving neighbour Inga (Nana Shonia), Abkhazian immigrant Elene (Olga Babluani), who shares a room at a charity hospital with her husband and four kids, kind-hearted Irina (Tamuna Bukhnikashvili) and spray-tanned trophy wife Baya (Shorena Begashvili), whose politician husband is one of the show’s sponsors.

As they enter the competition, the women discover they will be judged on their cooking skills, on how well they've raised their children, on their chosen talent and on their popularity with both the judges and the TV audience. However, midway through the contest, slimy series producer Otar (Gia Roinishvili) announces that there will also be a swimsuit competition, which prompts a rebellion amongst the women but also exacerbates tensions within the group.

The Good
Sukhitsashvili is excellent as neurotic Gvantsa, seeking to prove herself after the failure of her earlier career as a musician, and her sparky, bickering interactions with Shonia's Inga are one of the highlights of Keep Smiling. There's also strong support from Bukhnikashvili, Babluani and Roinishvili (who goes full slimeball as Otar), though Begashvili gets disappointingly little to do and the remaining contestants are barely even given any lines.

Keep Smiling’s script is frequently laugh-out-loud funny, though there's a dark edge to the comedy as it gradually becomes clear just how desperate each woman is to win and what the prize would mean to their families. In addition, the film also takes some well-aimed swipes at reality TV shows and there are a handful of enjoyably kitsch moments, such as the mothers rehearsing a dance number to Lou Bega's ‘Baby Keep Smiling’.

The Bad
The main problem is that, in striving for a fly-on-the-wall documentary feel, Keep Smiling’s rough-edged script loses focus when it comes to the various plot strands, whereas it might have benefited from a tighter, more straightforward narrative approach; it also doesn't help that one of the film's most shocking moments is telegraphed early on in a pre-flashback sequence, so you spend most of the film knowing that scene is coming. Similarly, though Gvantsa, Inge and Elene's stories are genuinely moving, it's frustrating that we don't get to know the other contestants in the same way.

Worth seeing?
Keep Smiling is an engaging comedy-drama that's by turns darkly funny, powerfully moving and genuinely shocking. Worth seeing.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 09:32

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