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Much of the Pakistani Hussein family has settled in London, striving for the riches promised by Thatcherism. Nasser and his right hand man, Salim, have a number of small businesses and they do whatever they need to make money, even if the activities are illegal. As such, Nasser and his immediate family live more than a comfortable lifestyle, and he flaunts his riches whenever he can. Meanwhile, his brother, alcoholic Ali, once a famous journalist in Pakistan, lives in a seedy flat with his son, Omar. Ali's life in London is not as lucrative in part because of his left leaning politics, which does not mesh with the ideals of Thatcherism. To help his brother, Nasser gives Omar a job doing menial labor. But Omar, with bigger plans, talks Nasser into letting him manage Nasser's run down laundrette. Omar seizes what he sees as an opportunity to make the laundrette a success, and employs an old friend, Johnny - who has been most recently running around with a gang of white punks - to help ... Written by
'My Beautiful Laundrette' takes a look at the 80's local life within the Asian communities in England and between the British Southeast Asians and the British Caucasians. What I loved about this film is that it presents its themes without going overboard to explain or to resolve anything. When we see a relationship develop between Omar and Johnny, one would expect to see them get attacked for it and then expect a preachy message like gays have rights too but there is nothing like that. There are scenes where the British Asians are being humiliated but this too does not lead to a bloodbath of sorts. It is all downplayed and subtle. It's about the characters, rather than a social message (but that's there too).
'My Beautiful Laundrette' mainly centres around Omar and his relationship with Johnny. Hanif Kureishi is known for telling tales about unconventional relationships and I thought it was great that both characters were shown to be open about their relationships in spite of their background. I mean they weren't screaming from the roof or anything but these two individuals did not care what others would think concerning their relationships. Frears deserves full marks for telling the story in such a raw, real, humorous and coherent way. The humour too is subtle and dry and flows well through the story.
The renovated laundrette too plays a crucial role. It is a place of comfort for Omar and Johnny, kind of like a home they built and decorated. The customers are amused by the beauty of it. A fascinated Nasser dances with his girlfriend while the customers eagerly wait outside. Thus, it becomes a place of comfort for many.
The characters are well etched. Both their strength and fragility is well displayed by the actors. Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke are excellent as Johnny and Omar. Day-Lewis brilliantly brings out Johnny's vulnerable and passionate side while on the exterior he appears as a tough and scary guy. Likewise Warnecke too effectively portrays Omar's determination and passion. A charismatic Saeed Jaffrey is phenomenal as the cheerful helpful uncle who goes through his own transformation. Rita Wolf is wonderful as the daughter who's in search of her own identity. Roshan Seth is good as the whiny father. The rest of the cast do well.
Pretty much all the characters are in search of something except that Omar and Johnny find what they want and Nasser loses what he had. The film does not end by providing a solution for everyone. And that is one of the many brilliance of it as it reflects that everyone has their own life to deal with and questions will arise but life goes on and it is up to us to choose the answer.
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