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Dramatised from Sarah Waters' acclaimed debut novel, "Tipping the Velvet" tells the story of Nancy Astley (Rachael Stirling), a young girl who works as cook and waitress in her Father's seaside restaurant - that is until she witnesses the extraordinary performance of a new-to-town male impersonator - Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes) - and begins to undergo a complete life transformation. Suddenly whipped up - and quickly flung down - by her love affair with Kitty, she experiences both euphoria and deep disillusion as she embarks on a seven-year journey of self-discovery - finally realizing that a life of sensation just isn't enough. Written by
Tipping the Velvet has just three weeks ago been released in the UK and already I watch as countless letters flood to the national papers and TV guides, claiming that it possesses a thin plot, weak performances and an even weaker script.
You find me incensed. This is heresy.
I would really like to dispel all doubt by first congratulating Andrew Davies on enabling Geoffrey Sax to create this wonderful dramatization of Sarah Waters' novel by cushioning him with such a fantastic script. Kudos. But I fear I must now change tack.
I saw one of the premiere TV guides here in the UK (which shall remain nameless) relentlessly describing Tipping the Velvet as a "lesbian love story". If they are, and I assume they are, trying to promote interest in the film, then this is completely the wrong way to go about it (aside from the phrase being a disappointingly inaccurate description). By saying such a thing, they are either a) turning away those who would instinctively be repelled by "that" subject matter or b) attracting a class of people who will only watch to see some "serious girl-on-girl action". Buy a video! Through this display of serious inconsideration, this and other magazines are cheapening what is a brilliant adaptation of one of recent literature's greatest works. Tipping the Velvet is a story of love, of passion, of moving on, of loss, and of heartbreak. It's not a lesbian love story. No siree.
The end result is a stylish affair, with excellent performances all round (particularly from Stirling, Hawes, Chancellor and May). Direction-wise, it's intoxicating and immersive - sometimes, fast-paced, sometimes not - but it never ceases to be anything less than compelling. As a whole, it's polished and well delivered, the sex is undertaken with tenderness and delicacy - and although many will not class it as a real "film", it will remain among my favourites for some time to come.
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