British author Kingsley Amis's sharply observed and bitingly funny 1960 novel of heterosexual relations at a time of rapid cultural change, still very much worth reading, has been filmed twice. A 1970 screen adaptation (now out on DVD) unwisely moved the action well into the "swinging 60s" and made many changes to plot and characters, none for the better. The result feels dated and unconvincing, and often curiously smarmy and sexist. The lovely Hayley Mills as Jenny Bunn, the "girl" of the title, Sheila Hancock as Martha and Penelope Keith, in a cameo as a poll worker, provide moments of genuine enjoyment. Oliver Reed, however, seems miscast as "ladies' man" Patrick Standish, and comes across mostly as glum and uncertain.
Fortunately, in 2000 the BBC made this excellent 3-part TV film set firmly in the right period, with an expert screenplay by Andrew Davies and lively, assured direction by Nick Hurran. There's a really fine cast headed by Sienna Guillory as Jenny and Rupert Graves (in top "romantic bad boy" form) as Patrick, Hugh Bonneville, Emma Chambers and Robert Daws; Leslie Phillips makes a brief, memorable appearance. While some of the more lacerating aspects of Amis have been toned down - Sheila is physically more attractive than in the book, Graham finds a girlfriend, and (most notably) Patrick's ultimate conquest of Jenny, which in the novel is essentially "date rape," becomes more ambiguously consensual - overall this version is faithful to Amis and the period, and highly enjoyable on its own terms. Issued only on VHS in the U.K. (and never in any form in North America) it's overdue for release on DVD.