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Absolute Beginners (1986)

PG-13 | | Drama, Musical, Romance | 18 April 1986 (USA)
In London in 1958, a young photographer seeks media stardom to keep the love of a beautiful, aspiring fashion designer.

Director:

Julien Temple

Writers:

Colin MacInnes (based on the novel by), Michael Hamlyn (developed for the screen by) | 4 more credits »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Patsy Kensit ... Suzette
Eddie O'Connell Eddie O'Connell ... Colin
David Bowie ... Vendice Partners
James Fox ... Henley of Mayfair
Ray Davies ... Arthur
Mandy Rice-Davies Mandy Rice-Davies ... Mum
Eve Ferret ... Big Jill
Tony Hippolyte Tony Hippolyte ... Mr. Cool
Graham Fletcher-Cook ... Wizard
Joseph McKenna Joseph McKenna ... Fabulous Hoplite (as Joe McKenna)
Steven Berkoff ... The Fanatic
Sade ... Athene Duncannon (as Sade Adu)
Edward Tudor-Pole ... Ed the Ted (as Tenpole Tudor)
Bruce Payne ... Flikker
Alan Freeman Alan Freeman ... Call-Me-Cobber
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The music video for David Bowie's single "Absolute Beginners".

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Storyline

A musical adaptation of Colin MacInnes' novel about life in late 1950s London. Nineteen-year-old photographer Colin is hopelessly in love with model Crepe Suzette, but her relationships are strictly connected with her progress in the fashion world. So Colin gets involved with a pop promoter and tries to crack the big time. Meanwhile, racial tension is brewing in Colin's Notting Hill housing estate... Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The music, the movement, the romance, the passion . . . all explodes on the BIG SCREEN. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Musical | Romance

Certificate:

PG-13 | See all certifications »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

"That's Inspiration" ends with a close-up of a giant record of the song credited to a band called "The Hidden Persuaders." This is an in-joke reference to Vance Packard's book "The Hidden Persuaders," a late-1950's best-seller explaining how advertisers were hiring psychologists as consultants to make their pitches irresistibly appealing to basic human natures. See more »

Goofs

Stock sound effect of glass breaking is heard every time a window is broken and thunder stock sound effect is heard each time lightning strikes. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Colin: [narrating] I remember that hot, wonderful summer. When the teenage miracle reached full bloom and everyone in England stopped what they were doing to stare at what had happened. The Soho nights were cool in the heat, with light and music in the streets. And we couldn't believe that this was really coming to us at last. Nobody knew exactly why. But after so many dreary years of bombs and blitz and slow rebuilding; no sugar, no jam, nothing sweet anywhere; with the whole English ...
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Connections

Referenced in Blinded by the Light (2019) See more »

Soundtracks

So What (Lyric Version)
Performed by Smiley Culture
Composed by Miles Davis
Lyrics by Smiley Culture
Brass arrangement by Gil Evans
See more »

User Reviews

 
Unjustly overlooked 80's musical
20 August 1999 | by SKG-2See all my reviews

I had just graduated high school(in California) when this movie came out, in the summer of 1986. Given the heavy promotion given it by MTV(I believe they had a contest whose winner would appear in the film, though I may have remembered that wrong), and given that David Bowie, whose music career was on the upswing, had a starring role(along with a mix of musicians like veteran Ray Davies(of the Kinks) and newcomer Sade), you'd expect the movie would be a hit. Instead, it barely made a dent in America(in their year-end issue, Rolling Stone called it one of the hype jobs of the year), and seems to have been largely forgotten(though in an interview with Rolling Stone about a year later, Bowie claimed it was a cult hit). In fact, while star Patsy Kensit has had an erratic career, Bowie continued to make music and the occasional movie, and director Julien Temple, after this and EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY, went back to his forte, music videos, it's sort of ironic that the most successful person to come from that movie is Robbie Coltrane(TV's CRACKER), who only had a small role here.

Why am I boring you all with this? Because ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS is one of the unsung classics of the 80's. Of course, having grown up on old-time musicals(my dad was a fan), I'm probably more receptive to them than the average person seems to be today, but this is one of the best ones of the last two decades. Not only are all the numbers well-written and well sung(in addition to Bowie, Davies, and Sade, jazz great Gil Evans wrote the instrumental score, and Style Council contributes a song. Also, female lead Patsy Kensit sings one, while male lead Eddie O'Connell lip-syncs his numbers), they're also imaginatively staged. A good example is "Motivation," one of two numbers Bowie sings(the other being the title song), which includes parodies of Busby Berkley-type numbers. There's also a wicked parody of teen pop.

As for the story, Temple has the fine novel to fall back on(by Colin MacInnes), and while there's probably too many ideas trying to burst out(teen alienation, racism, "Selling Out"(the name of another song), he juggles them all with finesse. And the cast handles things with aplomb, with the exception of, surprisingly, Bowie; while he's appropriately super-smooth as the oily executive, his voice(intended to be an American accent?) is annoying. But O'Connell and Kensit are both fresh and appealing, Anita Morris and James Fox both play well in their typecast roles(as, respectively, a sexpot gossip columnist and an effete fashion designer), there's a nice turn by Mandy Rice-Davies(who, you may remember, was in real life involved in the Profumo scandal), and a host of others in small but memorable parts(the ones I can remember are Steven Berkoff(BEVERLY HILLS COP) and Bruce Payne(PASSENGER 57) as fascists, and Paul Rhys(VINCENT AND THEO) as a mod). All in all, well worth tracking down.


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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English

Release Date:

18 April 1986 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Absolute Beginners See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$83,743, 20 April 1986

Gross USA:

$930,211

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$930,211
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)

Color:

Black and White | Color (Rankcolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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