Sam (Sheridan Smith) is invited out with an old college friend, Michelle (Kate Nash) and her friend, Jess (Oona Chaplin) to a local dive of a South London nightclub. Glamorous Michelle and Jess seem to have it all, living and working in Paris. Keen to improve her lot in the world, Sam pretends she’s more than she is, not wanting to appear that she’s not made much of her life since studying. All goes to plan until Sam’s night begins to unravel with hilarious and disastrous consequences, beginning with a red wine stain on the bottom of her jeans, to trying to avoid her uncouth friends, Chanel (Jamie Winstone), Paigne (Riann Steele) and Saskia (Sarah Hoare).
The film hangs together nicely, thanks to Smith’s solid central performance. Smith has a natural affable appeal that makes you trust her explicitly, even playing such a flawed character, which helps drive the narrative. That said there is some top talent for her to playfully bounce off, from the likes of Nash, Chaplin, Winstone, plus a great comic rapport between Steele and Hoare. Delaney’s respect for her actors and faith in their abilities, shows in their individual input into the material as they each try to make their character as genuine as possible, however ridiculous the situation. Hence, there is empathy and knowing nods at some of the bog rituals ladies get up to.
Nevertheless, the script lets things down by being overly staged at times – being an adaptation of the play, When Women Wee, with some of the dialogue a tad forced (and not very realistic), almost hungry for laughs at times. However, Smith’s knack for comedy and her whole witty demeanour exactly capture the mood of the moment, making up for any shortcomings and setting the status quo back on track.
Delaney’s production style is snappy and energetic, giving the film a vibrant appeal, hiking up the tension and winding down the tempo accordingly – check out Paigne and Saskia’s claustrophobic MDMA-fuelled cubicle scene. The editing pace again compensates for some stop-and-starts, script-wise, when the chat feels less than unconvincing.
Powder Room harnesses some refreshing female comedic talent, all witnessed by the wise toilet attendant (newcomer Johnnie Fiori) who ends the night on a high, soulful note – much like any Saturday night sing-song in the loo when inhibitions crumble. Delaney’s directing now needs some equally fresh writing to really shine.