Watch Personal Services
- 1 hr 45 min
Personal Services is a British comedy-drama film from 1987 that is directed by Terry Jones and stars Julie Walters, Alec McCowen, and Shirley Stelfox. The movie tells the story of a woman named Christine Painter (played by Walters) who transforms her life from a suburban housewife to the owner of a successful brothel, in a time when prostitution was illegal in the UK.
Set in the 1980s, the film is based on the real-life experiences of Cynthia Payne, who ran a brothel in South London and was famously prosecuted in 1978 for "keeping a disorderly house." The movie's title is a euphemism for the services provided at Payne's establishment, which were often geared towards older men and niche fetishes.
The story opens with Christine's marriage falling apart and the sudden death of her father, who was her only emotional support. Christine finds herself with few job prospects and is forced to turn to a world she never thought she would experience. After discovering an underground massage parlour, Christine becomes curious about the life of the prostitutes who work there, and soon becomes one of them.
Inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of her newfound coworkers, Christine sets out to create a more upscale and profitable brothel, catering to the needs of her clients through a series of themed rooms and specialized services. She soon gains a reputation as a reliable madam and catches the eye of many wealthy and influential men.
However, the success of the brothel comes at a price. Christine's business is illegal, and she must navigate a legal system that sees her and her employees as criminals. Her erotic activities are seen as immoral by some, including her family and neighbors, who start to ostracize her. This leads to a trial that sees her facing serious charges that could put an end to her prospering empire.
The film's main character is complex, and her transformation from a dutiful housewife to a businesswoman in a male-dominated field is both compelling and surprising. Julie Walters delivers a fantastic performance as Christine, portraying a woman who is discovering her own desires and strengths in a world that doesn't always validate them.
The movie also features a strong supporting cast, including Alec McCowen as a retired judge who becomes a regular at Christine's establishment, and Shirley Stelfox, who plays a motherly figure to the women working at the brothel.
Personal Services tackles issues such as sex work, gender, class, and morality in a way that is both humorous and nuanced. While the film portrays prostitution as a legitimate line of work, it also acknowledges the dangers and the social stigma that come with it, and underlines the importance of consent and respect between sex workers and their clients.
The cinematography is charmingly aesthetic, capturing the fashion and styles of the 1980s whilst also showing the unpleasant parts of sex work through the dark alleys and dim-lit rooms. The film's writing is exceptional, skillfully balancing comedic and dramatic moments while showcasing the complex emotions and motivations of its characters.
In conclusion, Personal Services is a witty and thought-provoking film that provides an interesting insight into the world of brothels, showing a side very few have seen or heard of. The film's strong performances, engaging storyline, and clever writing make it a must-see for anyone interested in the social history of Britain.
Personal Services is a 1987 comedy with a runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. It has received moderate reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.4.