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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
A rare instance of magic-realism that actually works in the cinema. The realism is a scrupulously observed portrait of 80s London, its people (entrepreneurs, drunks, racists, wide-boys), locales (dingy flats, delapidated laundrettes, murky car lots) and attitudes (strutting capitalism, dessicated liberalism, farcical extremism).
The magic comes from Frears' style, tweaking and heightening the real; from stylised scenes such as Omar's reuniting with Johnny; from some magical set-pieces, especially the opening of the laundrette, Omar and Johnny making love cut with Nasser and Rachel's waltz; from the clashing of an exotic, Oriental world in a determinedly materialist context.
Kureishi's script is occasionally heavy-handed, but sex is never far from his analyses of power and identity - Omar's crucial tirade against Johnny has a thrilling, Genet-esque frisson.
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