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It bugs me that this movie is the "gay" movie, just like it bugs me when
movie with black people is labeled the "black" movie. What about Mafia
movies? Are those for people who are "involved"? What about "Seven" I
that's a cult classic for serial killers. Come on, a good movie is a good
movie. Trust me I identified with Omar - and I'm a straight hispanic
probably more than I have with any other character in a movie. This movie
about homosexuality like Charlotte Gray is about hair dye.
This movie is definitely one of my favorites. It is a look a young man (a gorgeous Pakistani named Omar) who basically tries to balance being Pakistani and British at the same time. He wants to have a business and be successful, in that Western capitalist way, and yet he wants to be good to his family and his father in that sense of family loyalty that only those of us from other cultures really understand. Omar asks his uncle to tell stories about his family in Pakistan, yet he doesn't understand his people's language - Urdu, I believe it is. This is a little insight for our white friends about what us "in-betweens" have to go through. Too ethnic for the white people, too white for our own people. It's nice to show the ethnic people looking down on the poor whites, because we do, we look down on low class white people, we have our snobbery too. It may not be right, but it's the truth. It's nice to show the sort of affectionate annoyance Omar found his Papa and Nasser for trying to help him. White people see that as overbearing, something to "escape" from (like Tania, who was the "whitest" of them all) Ethnic people have a sense of humor about it, because we know it means love, and like Omar most of us just choose to quietly listen and ignore their advice rather than make a scene. Omar never makes a scene.
That's what Johnny represents I think, the part of us we keep to ourselves, our passions and desire and those things that are too special to share, kind of like a spiritual belief. It makes their love seem almost sacred because it's too special for them to bring out and expose to the criticism of less enlightened people. It's worth noting that it's Johnny who kisses Omar semi-openly in the street, and it's Omar who doesn't tell his family why he can't marry Tania. I dont think it's so much homophobia as it a cultural difference as to what should be kept private. I could sort of see Johnny in the future demaning Omar tell his family.
Their love scene is gorgeous. When you first see Johnny he seems so rough and coarse and low class, but as he begins to seduce Omar while Omar talks about the past he suddenly seems powerful and sophisticated and . . . and just to see them getting it on on the table. It's very sweet and tender with the frantic kissing and the champange, but my god is it hot.
This certainly is a romantic (and more importantly) positive movie where two men are in love yet have a real conflict between them, and obviously gay men are right to love that, but hey, it works for informing white people, making minorities laugh, British people who grew up during that time, showing idiot homophobes that gay people are just the same as everyone else, DDL fans. Don't just slap the gay label on it and dismiss it!
A classic film in my book, My Beautiful Laundrette is the story of Omar, a
young restless Asian man caring for his alcoholic father in Thatcherite
London. Escape comes in the form of his uncles many and varied business
Anyone who experienced anything of life in '80's Britain will recognise the craving for instant financial success. Similarly I am sure Asian viewers will recognise the struggles inherent in finding an identity in a country which is your home but which can never feel quite like your real home.
Omar dreams of success so works to achieve it...along the way he meets up with old school-friend Johnny, who has betrayed him by falling in with a group of neo-nazi's. Omar soon has Johnny working for him and his uncle. Turning the tables on him as he is made to rely on the very people he has been taught to hate. The chemistry between Omar and Johnny is palpable and their relationship handled totally matter-of-factly. About the only part of the film not trying to score any political points is the gay relationship. There is a "so-what" attitude and no-one comes out at any point. And why should they?
Tension in the film is far more the result of socio-economic and racial inequalities. The whole thing is handled with grace, charm and wit. Anyone remotely familier with British film in particular will note the starry casting of supporting roles, though Danial Day Lewis is - now - the biggest star of the show. Here he shows the real substance behind his fame - more so than in any other film of his seen to date. The cast is universally excellent and the unique shooting, pacing and dialogue, quite quite brilliant.
Some of the shots in this film could be used as a template for brilliance...An unexpected kiss in a dark alley is easily the most erotic single shot I have seen in a film.
Despite a few reviews I have read claiming otherwise, I don't believe you need to be gay or Asian to get something out of this picture. Living in Britain may help, though it's a lot less than essential.......
And hey! Wouldn't you love to throw your knickers into the washing machines of a neon-lit music-filled laudrette from heaven run by two insatiably young and energetic lovers?
Well I would anyway! Pass the detergent this way please!
'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.
It figures this movie was not made in the USA... If it was, then main gay characters would either have to get killed or at least decently commit, or try to commit, suicide, get castigated or openly persecuted or both for their sexuality, and of course there would have to be a gays-are-people-too sermon somewhere in there. In fact, in this movie, while the gays may not have it easy, neither does anyone else; while in fact the non-gays get much more s--t than our two gay heroes, who seem to playing everybody off of each other anyway. You keep expecting someone to burst in upon their smooching or harassing them on the street or some other such low-down thing, but no (and knowing this makes it so much more easy to watch the second time)! To the Hollywood-weaned watcher, the start is slow and you don't quite know which way things are going, but we are very naturally eased into the two guys' relationship. It's very sweet, Romeo and Jules-like stuff. And like other reviewers mention, it is also so natural and well- made (and carried so many other taboos) that gay seems barely to be the issue. It is not a happy ending for many of the main characters in the movie, but life goes on. Just like life actually does.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film works on a number of different levels. Firstly, there is the love affair between the two main characters, Omar and Johnny, brought to life by brilliant performances from both Gordon Warnecke and Daniel Day-Lewis. The audience remains mostly in the dark about the history shared by the lovers... were they lovers before their chance meeting and subsequent re-discovery or were they just friends as children and lovers as adults? Clearly, though, there has always been a close bond between the two which has remained in tact, even after Johnny had abandoned his friend to join a group of Neo-Nazis. This is where the real complexities of the story lie. The fact that Omar and Johnny embark on a gay love affair seems almost incidental. Rather, it is the power relations between the two that is important. Class, ethnicity, kinship and community are central in shaping the way in which each character perceives their role within the world. Thatcherism and the 'entrepreneurial spirit' has fuelled Omar's ambition to make something of himself in 80s Britain. Conversely, Johnny seems to have resigned himself to his downtrodden status since society has done nothing to help him, so why should he do anything for society? Thus, class is very much an issue here. Ethnicity, too, is key, as the roles of the downtrodden and oppressed seem to have been reversed, with the white, working-class Johnny being the 'victim' of the system rather than the Pakistani, middle-class Omar. Despite all of the differences, however, essentially it is their love for each other that keeps them together. There are occasions when Omar questions whether he and Johnny can really be together in the long-term, such as when he contemplates marriage, whilst Johnny seems to be subordinate, almost passive, towards Omar because of his love for him. Despite all of their differences they both seem to have a profound respect for one another, which will hopefully enable them to continue their relationship, although the ending is left rather open. The main thing when watching this is to view it not only as a gay love story. It also provides a snapshot of 80s Britain and an illustration of the fluidity of identity, and of the different life chances that people had, which is clearly still as relevant today as it was back then.
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.
Want to see a side of London you won't get from any other
Then watch My Beautiful Launderette...
The film opens with a scene in which squatters are forcibly evicted from a
derelict building. Londoner viewers will recognize this as a sad yet
event... Immediately, we are attuned to the political bent of the movie.
Fortunately for that intent, the dialogue in the film is intelligently
written (note: this will not appeal to the lowest common denominator -- it
scores low on commercial appeal). Unfortunately, the often "stiff"
of that dialogue is a significant impediment. That said, Daniel Day Lewis
lends a powerful presence to his role as the punk squatter, Johnny.
The climax of the film aptly integrates the various tensions in the film: political, sexual, and social. We're surprised with a love scene between Johnny and Omar which is well-paced, erotic, and genuine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Hanif Kureishi's unique world is always fascinating, always
challenging: a direct rebuttal to a world in which the "British" are
something out of a 1950s time warp (forever white, middle-class,
village-dwelling). But he's never been so on-point, so relevant, direct
and just plain right as with his script for Stephen Frears' well-made
"My Beautiful Laundrette".
Gordon Warnecke plays Omar, a young Pakistani Londoner needing a direction in life in 1980's Britain: time of Thatcher, of aspiration, accumulation. He may be young and good-looking, but he's penniless and without prospects. His failed intellectual father (the great Roshan Seth) delivers him to jaws of the lion, as it were, for the sake of giving him a future. The lion is his uncle (the also great Saeed Jaffrey), rich, successful, an all too literal product of Thatcher's Britain. Omar's world becomes divided between his father, his uncle and his unlikely, erstwhile friend and sometime NF supporter, punk dropout Johnny (an early Daniel Day Lewis).
The world of 'Sarf' London in the 80s is brilliantly depicted from the feel of the streets right down to the fundamental, almost feudal divide between rich and poor. But it's also a very funny film, sharp and romantic. Neither Omar nor Johnny are meant to succeed in this particular world. But both find a way to defy the bounds set by those around them: what might I suppose be considered the ultimate Thatcherite success that is, in defiance of the odds, by hook or crook.
Omar and Johnny become lovers - but it's entirely incidental; it can't be allowed to get in the way of business. Certainly it doesn't make them any more outcast than they were already. London has changed a lot. Johnny's kiss stolen from Omar on a dark street corner is one of the all time sexiest moments I can think of in a film, and I can see from other reviewers that I'm not alone. (Hardly necessary to add that you don't have to be gay to enjoy this film any more than that you have to be a Londoner or British.)
Daniel Day Lewis has since made his way to superstardom; Gordon Warnecke inexplicably languishes in occasional British TV appearances today, as far as I can tell. But both actors are really believable in their roles, both playing complicated, real human characters, driven and held back by multiple forces.
Kureishi tells the searing, unapologetic truth always. With a great eye for character, he knows how to make what people really say, work dramatically. Check out his TV series "The Bhudda of Suburbia", if you can find it. Frears is one of the small handful of great British directors: check out his very funny "The Snapper".
Films like this helped shape my world as a teenager: a Brit classic.
Stephen Frears' film of Hanif Kureshi's script about the Pakistani and the
NF punk who grew up as friends, and find themselves attracted to each other
again. Gordon Warneke and Daniel Day-Lewis play the lovers in this
intelligent movie which has a cheap British tinge but has some superb
moments (Saeed Jaffrey as Warneke's uncle, a professional businessman, not
a professional Pakistani') within it.
Perhaps the longest-lasting image is the two boys in the back room of the launderette, splashing each other with water, and putting aside the political differences between them. Whether it truly makes its points about race and sexuality I'm not sure.
"He'll (Omar) go to college and study. He must. We all must. So we can see clearly who is doing what to whom." This is the view of Poppa, Omar's father. This bedridden man is an ex-journalist from Pakistan who has lived to see his wife throw herself in front of the trains that rattle incessantly outside his flat and his own students march past with National Front. To top it off, his younger brother, Nasser, who carried his typewriter when they were boys back in Pakistan, has become the "Sardou of South London," a big enough cheese to give his own son a failed laundrette to run. "Government grant." But, Uncle Nasser has a chink in his armor, too: will his relationship with his mistress, Rachel, last as long as that with his wife? Both brothers look to a union between Omar and Tania, yep, Nasser's daughter, as the key to the future of their band of Pakistani immigrants in a land that doesn't want them. Will these energetic offspring comply with their plans? Omar seems closer to the randy and remorseful Johnny than anyone. Smart cookie that she is, Tania packs her belongings in her Princess suitcase and...Everyone has a decision to make in this fascinating sociological study of Thatcherite England. Wonder what everyone is doing now?
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