Thursday, April 10, 2014

Beautiful Thing


Reynaldo's truck was parked in the drive again this morning, even though Friday is not his day to come and do the yard. I assume he forgot some of his tools yesterday and had to come back to collect them. It must have taken him some time to find them all as it was after ten when he finally drove off. Doreen, who was nowhere in evidence earlier in the morning, despite my plaintive calls for assistance, arrived soon thereafter with the breakfast tray and the flush of morning in her cheeks. I had to berate her quite a bit for her tardiness. Thank goodness I was wearing one of my new Vicki's Secret Waste Panties or there would have been a dreadful mess.

I asked Doreen why Herbert had not been in evidence the last few days. She replied that he needed to take their recreational vehicle down to Tijuana to get serviced and he was due back any day now. I thought about offering her my private driver and mechanic but really didn't want to do her any favors, especially after the fried okra and road kill dinner she produced last night. After tidying myself up, I amused myself again with the binoculars. Richard Gere appeared to be hosting some sort of pool party for the Olympic diving team on his back deck: Many large men in small bathing suits.

Nothing else interesting was happening in the environs of Chateau Maine so I retired back to my bedroom, thumping my enormous hip cast the entire way, and selected a film for viewing. I was in the mood for something happily ever after and ran across the film Beautiful Thing from 1996 as I was perusing my piles of older films. It struck me as being perfect for a languid early afternoon so I popped it into the machine.

Beautiful Thing is an adaptation of a stage play by Jonathan Harvey, written in 1993 and originally produced in London at the Bush Theatre. (A young Jonny Lee Miller was in the cast.) The play, a self described urban fairy tale, about two gay teens in a dreary London housing project who find each other, and fall in love, was well received, transferring eventually to the Donmar Warehouse, and then moving on to other productions in Australia and off Broadway in the US. Harvey revised and opened out his play for the screen and original stage director, Hettie McDonald came on board as director for the film.

The film focuses on young Jamie (Glen Berry), a dreamy young man well tuned in to his budding sexuality as a young gay man. Unfortunately, his school mates are also tuned in and are making his life hell. He lives with his mother, Sandra (Linda Henry), in a drab council apartment which his mother dreams of escaping by moving on up from bar maid to manager of her own pub. Jamie has a crush on Ste (Scott Neal), a young man his own age from down the hall who lives with his abusive father (Garry Cooper) and older brother (Daniel Bowers) who beat him for sport. Sandra has a much younger boyfriend (Ben Daniels) and is feeling alienated from her growing son and his secrets and is scared about leaving her own youth behind. Aside from Ste, Jamie's only real friend is the girl next door, Leah (Tameka Empson), whom his mother despises, whose own mother (the wonderful Jeillo Edwards) can't cope, and who is obsessed with the music of Mama Cass, especially at full volume. When Ste gets beaten up one time too many, Sandra takes him in to protect him and Jamie and Ste start to explore and act on their growing feelings for each other. This being a fairy tale, all comes out well, each character achieving their goal and the finale becomes a sort of dream moment to the strains of Mama Cass's version of Dream A Little.

The film is a gentle romance and, in the hands of other writers or directors, could have become a mawkish and maudlin piece, but Harvey and McDonald have too much affection for their characters to let this happen. The leads are complex, fully realized, do stupid things, hurt those they love, but ultimately find redemption as they muddle through this thing called life. Linda Henry, a veteran of the British soap East Enders, dares to be virtually unlikeable as she attempts to understand and cope with a son who's different than her imaginings. The young lovers, Berry and Neal, are gawky and shy, not the self assured twenty somethings who usually play teens in American films.

The film was made on a low budget, and, at times, reveals its stage origins as it lingers too long in cramped apartment settings. It's also technically sloppy with more visible mike booms and wires than there should be. The performances, and the crisp dialog, however, carry it along towards it's happy conclusion, the infectiously joyous sound of Mama Cass's voice providing a certain delectable buoyancy to the proceedings.

Those who do not believe that young people should have sexual or romantic feelings and those who do not think that persons of the same gender should care deeply for each other might be offended by the content, but it's more sweet than anything else.

Breast joke. Hey, Big Spender karaoke. Head banging. Comic face cream. Naked Scott Neal. No naked Glen Berry. Kissing in the woods. Splashing in the Thames. Dancing on the terrace. Panty hose on head. 

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