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Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Coffee, Tea or Me?
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Andrew Howe

"Fly the unfriendly skies"
2 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: In the year 1973, dreams of becoming a ballerina or air hostess were shared by all but a few of my five year-old female classmates. Treading the boards or treading the aisles Ė both were considered glamorous occupations, but over the last thirty years the stewardess trade has lost some of its lustre. These days anyone with a few bucks can book a seat, and the job has more in common with herding cattle than providing a memorable experience for anyone lucky enough to take to the skies.

Enter filmmaker Brita McVeigh, who escorts a group of ageing hosties down memory lane in the documentary feature Coffee, Tea or Me? Kicking off in mid-sixties New Zealand, the film follows our merry band through the glory days of nights on the town in Honolulu to a protracted court battle in the name of equal opportunity. Itís a moderately engaging effort, but the second half is sacrificed to McVeighís agenda, and the worthiness of the issue canít hide the fact that you feel like youíre watching a rather dry episode of Four Corners.

I canít be certain, but I suspect that most of those present at the festival screening were primarily interested in receiving an insight into the evolution of the hostess trade from 1965 to the present day. Itís an unusual occupation, and for the first 45 minutes McVeigh does a fine job in coaxing amusing anecdotes from her subjects. Youíll learn about the requirements for the position in the days when anti-discrimination was nothing more than a word in a dictionary (no weight gain, single females only), thrill to torrid tales of carousing in foreign climes (the stories are actually rather tame, but itís a delight to witness the joy the memories still bring to the faces of the middle-aged ladies those young girls became), and bear witness to some truly ludicrous uniforms that reveal just how much the times have definitely changed. Splicing static interviews with archival footage wonít win McVeigh any awards for innovation, but itís a good-natured effort that raises a smile and passes the time with ease.

Unfortunately, just when youíre getting into the swing of things the film takes an abrupt and jarring detour into a long-running dispute over equal pay, anti-discrimination and sexual harassment. These are valid concerns, but the presentation works against the subject matter, resulting in a long and occasionally tedious examination of a struggle that is best recounted on the printed page. Black and white issues rarely lend themselves to a riveting narrative, and since the same battle was fought in practically any industry you care to name itís difficult to muster the required level of righteous indignation.

The straightforward presentation and minimal budget means that the worth of Coffee, Tea or Me? will very much depend on your interest in the subject matter, and the absence of an overriding theme makes for a disconcertingly uneven experience. Itíll make for an entertaining hour on television, however, so Iíd recommend holding out until the discerning lads at SBS procure it for your viewing pleasure.

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originally posted: 06/19/03 16:48:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Brisbane Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Brisbane Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/14/09 sanjay let me see 3 stars
7/25/03 izy very enjoyable insight into history of flight attendants, and also unions in NZ 4 stars
7/11/03 Jana Tools Fantastic movie making 5 stars
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Directed by
  Brita McVeigh

Written by
  Brita McVeigh


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