I like Mike Leigh as a director. He makes films that sort of scream Maria. They are dialogue heavy, have no heavy plotting, have down-to-earth characters and other characters that may not be down to earth, but have some semblance of reality to them. I like Mike Leigh because he is unassuming. He likes to speak through his characters, whether it be a married couple, Gilbert and Sullivan, or a happy-go-lucky thirty something. Each one feels like they would be in the same universe and I guess more importantly in our universe. He achieves this through working on characters that the actors want to do, having unassuming cinematography, and having improvised scripts. He achieves what he is aiming for in most of his films. However, in Naked, I don’t think that he aims at all.
Naked is about a man who is on the run (?) and he decides to crash at his ex girlfriend’s flat. He nails several women and interfere with other’s lives all while being an insufferable prick. He philosophizes without actually saying anything, has rough teetering on rape sex with girls, imposes on security guards and random strangers that he meets in fish and chip shops, and he leaves each one with a solemn “fuck you!” when he has worn out his welcome. He is on the surface a charming guy in that rough and tumble sort of way. However if one were to dig deeper you find nothing more than a masochist. His story is parlelled with another man’s story who is basically the first man only with money. He is ruthless, angry and sees all women as sexual objects who he can rape and impose on at his leisure.
I am not one of those women who objects to all portrayals of women in rape situations. If a film earns the rape scene either thematically or plot wise, I usually am fine with it. However, this film does not earn the many scenes where there is violence inflicted on women, sometimes resulting in rape. Hell, the first scene is the “protagonist” raping a woman in a back alleyway. It is treated like just another character flaw along with him not bathing and not having any money. I am not asking for punishment, I am asking for acknowledgement. Someone please in the film acknowledge that this behavior from men is not acceptable. Instead the women in the film accept him as an eccentric and the other man as a forceful and overbearing, but not bad. I don’t understand why so many scenes have to involve women being forcefully dominated. Is there no other way for the director and star to show that these are despicable characters other than them raping and hurting girls?
Because of the sexual scenes in this film, I found it hard to really sympathize with the main character. This fact made it a very long film, even though it was only two hours long, it felt like eight. The other reason it felt so long was because of the dialogue. The dialogue was at times interesting, but does he really need to inflict his philosophy on every person he meets for more than five minutes. We get it you are passionately delusional. Wonderful. You don’t need to keep proving that again and again. If this was a series of short films where I could pause in between, I think that I would have liked it more.
If you are wanting to see Mike Leigh films, I would suggest to stay away from this film. I would rather point you in the direction of Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky, or Topsy Turvy. All of these films have characters who not only talk a lot but actually have something to say and are sympathetic. Naked’s protagonist is neither of these things.