|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|Index||19 reviews in total|
Okay, so it may seem unfair to review The Line of Beauty after having
only seen Episode One, but the sneaky peek on show last night at the
London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival gave every indication that this
adaptation of Alan Hollinghurst's Booker Prize-winning novel is a
classic in the making.
Everyone who has read the novel will have his or her own impression of the characters and locales. (I lived in Notting Hill for more than a decade, so my mental picture of the story was probably more vivid than most.) But within minutes of the bravura opening sequence (grafted onto the novel by canny adapter Andrew Davies), director Saul Dibb makes Nick Guest's world his own.
What I found so extraordinary about this adaptation (or at least the first episode) is how cleverly Davies has mined the novel for humour, social commentary and romance. On- screen representations of the upper-middle-classes tend to show us the wholly implausible world of PG Wodehouse, but without Wodehouse's wit, or stick the knife in with bitter class hatred. The Line of Beauty does neither; showing us the Fedden family warts and all. Gerald Fedden MP (in a stunningly good characterisation by Tim McInnerney) is quite the pompous paterfamilias, but is also generous, funny and kind.
As our "eyes and ears" through the story, newcomer Dan Stevens is pitch-perfect; his clear, blue eyes miss nothing as his life becomes more and more entwined with the Feddens and their glittering world.
The clips shown of the following two episodes promise no decline in quality, so if The Line of Beauty does not come quite as close to perfection as Brideshead Revisited - which remains the high watermark of British television drama - it is still shaping up to be landmark adaptation, and not to be missed when it premieres on BBC2 later in May.
Alan Hollinghurst's 'The Line of Beauty' is, at least in this adaptation, a version of 'The Great Gatsby' fitted to 1980s Britain, the story of a young man from an ordinary background who mistakenly harbours too many illusions about the beautiful people of the smart set. The story lacks the utter poignancy of Fitzgerald's book because the hero (who, co-incidentally or not, shares the name of Nick with the other novel's protagonist) only rejects his adopted world when it rejects him; But the screenplay, cinematography, and performances are all first rate, especially that of Tim McInerny, playing a MP whose ultimate ruthlessness, self-righteousness, and rottenness, is hidden beneath a layer of almost genuine charm and kindness. The political overtones of the story are somewhat lost in a treatment that dwells almost exclusively inside the gilded balloon, and all of the characters could be handled less sympathetically with some justification, but the indulgent early mood reaps final reward when things go sour. Screenwriter Andrew Davies made his name with the contemporary series 'A Very Peculiar Practice', but these days seems to concentrate largely on period drama. This aberration proves itself welcome, and leaves one hopeful of more to come.
Alan Hollinghurst's brilliant novel THE LINE OF BEAUTY has been well
adapted for film by Andrew Davies and brought to BBC television by
director Saul Dibb and an outstanding cast. That television miniseries
is now available on one DVD with each of the three parts intact as seen
in the UK (not the parceled version shown in the USA) and it is a
satisfying transition from Hollinghurst's visual poetry to cinematic
The story takes place from 1983 to 1987 in England - the Thatcher years - when class differences, hypocrisies, paparazzi, and homophobia were peaking. Essentially the tour guide through this time is one Nicholas Guest (Dan Stephens), a 'middle class' son of an antiques dealer who has just finished Oxford (on scholarship) and visits the home of his wealthy roommate Toby Fedden (Oliver Coleman) whose father Gerald (Tim McInnerny) is climbing the steps of politics as his warmly understanding and supportive wife Rachel (Alice Krige) looks on and worries about their knotty daughter Cat (Hayley Atwill) who loathes politics and sees the hypocrisy spoken by all of her father's associates. Nick is welcomed into the family with genuine warmth and he is smitten by the grandeur of their lifestyle and the beauty of their home: he becomes their surrogate son when Toby leaves for adventures with his shallow sweetheart, taking care of at times self-mutilating Cat.
Nicholas is gay, finds love with a lower class handsome black man Leo (Don Gilet), and shares his proclivities with Cat, his confidant. Insidiously Nick becomes a full part of the Fedden family, serving as a son would, entertaining at parties with them, and meeting the important people whom Gerald engages in his political pyramid. Among them is a Lebanese family whose wealthy son Wani Ouradi (Alex Wyndham) catches Nick's eye and though Wani is 'engaged' to a girl he also is a severely closeted gay man and Nick and Wani become entwined in drugs and love. When the spectre of AIDS begins to diminish the population of England some secrets are revealed, secrets of sexual liaisons that are intolerable for the Feddens and their associates yet lead to the hypocrisy of affairs within Gerald Fedden's protected world. It is the surfacing of the true lives of the characters that proves to be the downfall of Nicholas and his relationship to the world of wealth as well as the crumbling of the fragile political, media-infested world of Gerald Fedden's creation.
The cast is uniformly excellent and Dibb is able to coax the acrid aura of England of the 1980s with lucidity and a sensitive eye for revealing corruption and fractured human relationships. If the viewer is left with the feeling that Nicholas does not really deserve our concern because of his hollow devotion to wealth as a means to happiness then the point of Hollinghurst's novel has been well served. The film is not without flaws (a pianist at one of the soirées, we are told by supertitles, is paying Grieg's Piano Concerto....when that could not be further from reality!), and insufficient time is given to the Nick/Wani and Nick/Leo relationships to allow us into the inner sanctum of gay life in this tough time, etc., it still is an engrossing drama and one very well played by credible actors. Grady Harp
A naive young man falls in with a wealthy Tory politician and his
family in 1980s Britain.
Wonderful adaptation of Hollinghurst's novel, expertly cast. The greed, selfishness, hedonism, ignorance and bigotry that for many sums up the Thatcher era are all on display as Stevens' innocent abroad Nick is drawn in and swept away by the Feddens family. Even as we see Nick become an almost indispensable member of the family, so we know his sweetness and ingenuousness must surely be his undoing...
Stevens is brilliant, effortlessly capturing the essence of the well-meaning and ingratiating Nick, and he is formidably supported by all concerned, from the key players (McInnerny, Atwell, Krige) to the host of fantastic cameos on display. A must-see for anyone who came-of-age in Thatcher's Britain.
Now that all three episodes have aired in the U.S., one may fairly
comment on the overall production.
Any comparison to The Great Gatsby is at best superficial, given that the only clues are incidental to the main thrust of the story. In most respects it is a uniquely British tale with relevance to any similar American theme to be found in something Reaganesque or Bushite rather than anything from the era of Calvin Coolidge. Interestingly, Margaret Thatcher is labelled in one telling scene as more the tool of the ruling classes than their leader -- just as their American contemporaries in the Republican Party have been.
But the main elements of the story -- class division and envy, reverse snobbery, interethnic relations that have evolved from the disintegration of the Empire -- are less comparable to the scene on this side of the Atlantic. Simple hypocrisy of the kind found in nearly all politicians and the hubris resulting from too much success found too young in life lie at the center of it all. Add to that the drug scene and AIDS in the 1980's and you have a compelling story.
The title is also intriguing. It suggests that beauty may be found in amongst all the hypocritical swill running as counteractive impulses that seem on the surface to be merely eccentric. Thus the character of Nick, casually characterized by the housekeeper as "no good," is really something of an antihero. At the beginning of the story he is all superficial and bright, and at the end he is simply bemused.
It may be melodramatic and a bit soapy, but I liked it.
I watched the first episode of the line of beauty last Wednesday (17th May) and I personally enjoyed it. I, myself am only 22 years old and so I was born in the eighties but obviously don't remember it. The story follows one man through his sexual awakening in amidst all the fake glamour of the 80's Tory government. The political side of it is interesting to watch, but the main focus was watching Dan Stevens character (Nick Guest) meeting other men. I have not seen Dan Stevens before in anything else, but from now on I will be on the look out for anything else he appears in. His crystal clear blue eyes, and the way he plays the character's naiveté (in the first episode anyway) is well done. I will definitely watch the next two episodes and may even read the book if I can get hold of it. I recommend tuning in, (espically if your gay) for the sex scenes alone but also for the clever portrayal of the Thatcherite years and how it both destroyed and made the country we are all living in today.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
9 years after the Conservatives were in power you might think the BBC
would look back fondly at them as they did recently with their
documentary 'Tory Tory Tory'. However this miniseries drenches any
warmth you might have for those 80s Thatcherites like a freezing bucket
of cold water.
By far the highlight is watching a succession of British luvvies line up one by one to spit venom at angelic Nick Guest in the last episode because he is gay. You can see they all had fun acting against type in those scenes but for all that it's still a timely reminder that when the chips are down, as they were at the end of the 80s when the horror of AIDS was touching virtually everyone in the LGBT community, they'll kick you when they should be helping you, e.g. Clause 28. For in this series all the Tories conspicuously tell Nick how much they love and value him at regular intervals only to disown him the minute they need a scape goat.
So in the plus column we have the keenly observed 80s setting, the sex, the melodrama. The only minuses being the inexplicable schizophrenia displayed by the Conservative characters. But I think maybe that's the point because that's how it really was.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I quite often see movies made of books I've read. Less often do I watch
a film (or TV series in this case) and then read the book. But that's
exactly what I did after watching The Line of Beauty on DVD. This BBC
production of the superb Alan Hollinghurst novel, adapted for TV by
Andrew Davies (the author of so many great adaptations for the BBC) is
simply very good. It is perfectly cast and beautifully filmed. One of
the best adaptations I've seen in a long time. It's very true to its
source material yet at the same time can never replace reading the
novel, which I strongly recommend anyone who enjoys beautiful writing,
The setting is 1980s London, Thatcher is in power and our hero, young Nick Guest (a perfectly cast Dan Stevens), has just gained a first at Oxford. Newly uncloseted as gay, but still a virgin, he arrives to stay at the upscale London house of college friend Toby Fedden (Oliver Coleman), the son of newly elected pompous Tory MP Gerald Fedden (Tim McInnerny, just terrific in this role.) Also in the household are Gerald's rich and rather saintly wife Rachel (Alice Krige written forever into my heart as the Borg Queen unfortunately) and unstable, bipolar daughter Catherine, or The Cat, as she is known to the family (Hayley Atwell).
Nick is ostensibly studying for a PhD in the more obtuse aspects of the writing of Henry James, but mostly his time is spent pursuing his first lover, the beautiful but prosaic Leo (Don Gilet), and his first love, beauty. Cat becomes his confidante in his pursuit of Leo, and he in turn is supposed to keep an eye on her as she veers through life on a swerving path of extremes. Nick is an aesthete, unworldly in the games of politics and money that he finds himself observing, and perhaps just a little disingenuous. He himself comes from a more humble, country town background, and is rather in love with the Feddens' life of easy wealth and beautiful possessions, into which he slots readily.
This is played out against the back drop of the encroaching AIDS epidemic and Thatcher's politics. If Billy Elliot showcased one aspect of Thatcherism 'up North' in the 1980s, then this is one aspect of what was happening 'down South' in the same period. And in some ways, I guess it could be Britain's belated equivalent of Angels in America; Thatcher/Reagan politics and the onset of AIDS. Nick's affair with a beautiful but spoiled millionaire playboy, Wani Ouradi (Alex Wyndham), leads him into a cocaine fuelled life of high society parties, European travel, random sex and an esoteric, arty magazine (Ogee) and film which will never get made. Money is made and wasted with unconcern in this brave new Thatcher world. As his friends begin to get ill and die, Nick seems immune to it all, cocooned in the Fedden's beautiful home. But life begins to unravel as AIDS looms larger and larger, Cat denounces her father's extra marital affair to the press, hypocrisies are exposed and the family, of which he thought he was a part, ultimately closes ranks against Nick.
I can understand that if you never lived through the 80s in Britain, this may all seem like an interesting but rather unreal and irrelevant look back at recent history. I must be 3 or 4 years older than Nick, but unfortunately or fortunately I guess, depending on how you look at it I spent most of the 1980s working offshore, doing my small bit to keep the North Sea oil industry afloat and profitable, so much of what happened in London passed me by, and news was heard in occasional snippets, bookended by the shipping forecasts, when we could get the ship's radio to work.
Hideously expensive, hangover inducing Norwegian lager was our drug of choice. Come to think of it, most of Thatcherite economics was based on the bonanza of North Sea oil, so maybe I'm partly to blame? Anyway, I found it fascinating and terrific viewing. They captured the pomposities and hypocrisies of the era, the waste and excess so well, and the groveling of the MPs to "the Lady". It is also very funny in places. I can't recall if this is in the film as well as the book, but I am still smiling at Cat's description of a sequined Margaret Thatcher as resembling a Country and Western star. I wish I'd thought of that!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Lovely young Nick Guest (Dan Stevens) from a middle-class home falls
into (unrequited) love with his college mate Toby Fedden (Oliver
Coleman), comes to live with Toby's wealthy family in their splendid
house in Notting Hill and falls in love with them too "Brideshead
Revisited" in London, in fact. Toby's father Gerald (Tim McInnerney) is
a Tory MP and craven admirer of "the Lady", Margaret Thatcher, who is
in the ascendant, post Falklands, while his mother Rachel (Alice Krige)
is from a wealthy Jewish banking family.
The action, which unfolds in three Acts, is nicely boxed between Thatcher's two re-elections in 1983 and 1987. Nick discovers that the glittering Feddens, including Toby's sister Cat (Hayley Atwell), are not as noble as they seem, and when he becomes an embarrassment to them he is discarded.
The film sticks fairly close to Alan Hollinghurst's novel and retains its Gay sensibility we see things from Nick's point of view. Somehow the Nick of the film is a more sympathetic character than the Nick of the book possibly because of Dan Steven's cool performance. Hollinghurst wanted to remind us of what it was like to be Gay in Britain in the 1980s legalized but subject to widespread homophobia and threatened by the march of AIDS, then a death sentence. The film picks this up very graphically with perhaps greater impact than the book. The wealthy "new money" Thatcherites are given a going over as well (the Lady herself puts in a cameo appearance at the end of Act 2). With supporters like those the Thatcher revolution was always going to be bloody.
Nick himself is more interested in art than politics; his "line of beauty" is a curved line (the "Ogee") drawn by Hogarth which happens to coincide with the line of the male buttocks. His relationship with the Feddens is aspirational rather than mercenary (his lover Wani (Alex Wyndham) provides the cash for their "Ogee" magazine). In the end, one can imagine him, like his father, an antique dealer, smacked down by the upper class he sought to join. (Funnily enough, antique dealing in Britain is full of Public School types "Lovejoy" is a bit of an aberration.) Andrew Davies has produced a typically seamless adaptation, and virtually all the performances are faultless. Some of the minor roles are the most vividly executed, such as Christopher Fairbanks' Barry Groom, homophobia personified, and Barbara Flynn's common as muck Lady Tipper. The class system in Britain was certainly robust enough to survive Mrs Thatcher she just created a new class of wealthy philistines.
"The Line of Beauty," which I recently saw on Logo, is a wonderful film, but it reminded me heavily of "The Great Gatsby" in that it makes the narrator a character in the scenario. Sam Waterston was given the role of Daisy Buchanan's poorer cousin, Nick Carraway. In "Line" Nick Guest serves in much the same way, with the exception that Nick Guest never realized he was an outsider, whereas Nick Carraway always did. Also much like Hemingway's reaction to F. Scott Fitzgerald's (author of "Gatsby") that "The rich are very different from us" - "Yes, they have more money", Guest finds out that human emotions, in this case recrimination, blame and betrayal, are just as much a part of the upper class as the lower. Guest and Gatsby both admire the upper class and at some point in each story, believe themselves equal to them, until each are made to pay for the sins of those they admire. In Gatsby's case, he is mistakenly shot by the wife of a garage mechanic who believes him to be Daisy's husband Tom, who is both wealthy and immoral. It is a classic story of social separatism, told with an extra layer of the start of the AIDS epidemic. It is a fine job of writing and acting all around. I was particularly impressed with the final slap in the face Nick gets from the housekeeper, who should have been more sympathetic to Nick, but who is also self-deluded in her thinking that she is part of the family, and not an outsider.
|Page 1 of 2:|| |
|External reviews||Official site||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|