''Twenty-one'' is an almost picaresque account of the sexual peregrinations of a young English girl, a secretary who apparently doesn't know about safe sex. The film, like the lead character's life, is sometimes exciting, sometimes dull.
Patsy Kensit plays Katie, a bold young woman who believes in taking her sex wherever she likes and with whom she likes.
She is keeping company with a man who is married to one of her friends. Meanwhile, she is in love with a druggie who is so wired he isn't interested in sex.
Then there is a third man, a Jamaican who wants Katie to marry him, as a matter of convenience. He is living in England illegally, and if he and Katie marry, the immigration authorities will leave him alone.
Katie is just the sort of girl who would oblige the young man. She is also the sort of girl who wears a see-through lace dress to the wedding of the man she is bedding in London and in Venice.
Katie goes where the sex is, and she is honest about it. Some men want something more, she says. She has no more to give. Her lovers cannot accept the fact that Katie has sex because she wants it, enjoys it and doesn't mind if she breaks a few hearts along the way.
Katie talks to the audience, just as ''Shirley Valentine'' did. She relates her story as she wanders the New York apartment of a friend. This directness makes her and the film more likable, but there are times when the movie becomes so languid, it just dies. At other times, it is alive and amusing, so what we have here is a mix, a film of ups and downs.
British director Don Boyd direct ed ''Twenty-one,'' and he has made good use of the hand-held camera. The movement, in fact, is so smooth, one finds himself admiring the process more than the film itself.
When we first see Katie, she is wearing facial cream. When it comes off, she says, she hopes she will look like Grace Kelly.
She doesn't, but she is certainly pretty enough to attract males wherever she goes, including a bar where three patrons menace her and her doper boyfriend.
Boyd makes use of choral, even heavenly music at times, mostly when Katie and her married lover are having sex. It's interesting. It also seems rather pointless, but then the film, playing as though it was adapted from a book (it wasn't), also seems pointless at times.
Sophie Thompson plays Frances ca, Katie's good friend who seems to prefer food to sex, or possibly approaches both with the same ardor. Rufus Sewell is Bobby, the doper, Patrick Ryecart is the married man who doesn't take his marriage vows too seriously, Maynard Eziashi is the Jamaican with whom Katie has a sexless relationship, and Jack Shepherd is Kenneth, Katie's father who is having trouble with his marriage.
''Twenty-one'' doesn't say much for the institution of marriage. It doesn't say much for fidelity, either. It's a modern, loose look at the '90s and the women who still behave as though it is the '60s. The film opens today at the York Ridge Cinema.
** A young English girl who believes in having sex wherever she pleases, has an affair with a married man.
CAST: Patsy Kensit, Jack Shepherd, Patrick Ryecart , Maynard Eziashi, Rufus Sewell, Sophie Thompson
DIRECTOR: Don Boyd
RATING: R: (sex, language, nudity, violence)
) RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes