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USA 2009
Directed by
Mike McCarthy
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Shannon O'Neill
4 stars

Cigarette Girl

Synopsis: Its 2035 and in a world in which smokers have been demonized and forced to a sleazy part of town, dubbed ‘The Smoking Section’, crime and disease run rampant, there are no hospitals, and smokers cannot obtain life insurance. Cigarette Girl, (Cori Dials) works for the sole remaining Cigarette club, Viceroy, selling cigarettes for $50 a packet, until her grandmother contracts emphysema and she rebels against her employer.

Cigarette Girl, American indie director, Mike McCarthy’s first feature film since Superstartlet AD in 2000, was shot in Memphis over eleven days and is a noirish, low budget genre piece that has parallels with exploitation-oriented films such as Tarantino’s Kill Bill diptych. The lead is a strong, kickass, take-no-prisoners type female who, through the film, despite its being set in future times, wears the 1940s cigarette girl nightclub uniform -  lacy crinoline skirt, corset, fishnet stockings, and stiletto heels  - and drives a black 1970 Cadillac Deville. She is both tender and compassionate whilst being equally willing and able to dole out justice to anyone who wrongs her.

McCarthy says that whilst the film can be taken simply as a critique of the smoking industry, it’s really about more general themes of sex and power. Thus Cigarette Girl’s relationship with Viceroy boss, Ace (J Lazarus Hawk), is at the core of the film which in essence is about innocence and its corruption, as Cigarette Girl breaks free of Viceroy and attempts to save a young runaway (Ivy Mclemore), who is being prepped to replace her.

This is McCarthy’s first feature with Cori Dials (they previously worked together on the short film, Cadavera) who gives a strong performance as a woman trying to rise above the corruption around her and to confront her ghosts, both literal and metaphorical.  Hawk is suitably bad ass and cocky as Ace, Mclemore is well cast as the innocent completely out of her depth whilst James Buchanan is both swaggering and vulnerable as Valet. Lary Love Dolley I found somewhat ingratiating as Hat Check

From the opening washed-out credits, designed to look like an ash tray, to Cigarette Girl’s outfits, the film is very stylish and it is clear through his adept use of genre conventions and the sheer pizzazz of the film that McCarthy knows and loves his sources.




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