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An English bon-vivant osteopath is enchanted with a young exotic dancer and invites her to live with him. He serves as friend and mentor, and through his contacts and parties she and her friend meet and date members of the Conservative Party. Eventually a scandal occurs when her affair with the Minister of War goes public, threatening their lifestyles and their freedom. Based on the real Profumo scandal of 1963.Written by
Ed Sutton <email@example.com>
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If "Scandal" (1989) was not a fairly accurate recounting of Britain's John Profumo Affair, the characters and events would be too weird to be considered plausible fiction. Defense Minister Profumo's attempt to refute allegations of his involvement with Christine Keeler ultimately brought down the 10 year Conservative Party government back in the mid-1960's. "Scandal recreates these events and gives the viewer a glimpse into the personalities and possible motives of the main players in this political soap opera.
But recreating history is a secondary consideration in this film whose theme is about individuals who live in a fairy tale world until they fall victim to the grim forces that take life more seriously. The main player is Stephen Ward (John Hurt), a osteopath and recreational artist whose main goal is to be part of the right crowd, not so much immersed in this kind of society as in a position to observe it closely for his amusement. His method for doing so involves discovering ravishing young women from the poor side of town and doing a Henry Higgins number on them. The film begins with his discovery of Keeler (Joanne Whalley) who he begins grooming and introducing to prominent members of his in-crowd.
The two soon fall in love, but theirs is not a physical relationship. Stephen delights in seeing his protégé work her magic on men in authority. This eventually leads to their doom, since no one quite understands such an unconventional relationship they have no credibility when an attempt is made to make Stephen a scapegoat for the government scandal.
In retrospect the process of attacking Ward to contain the widening scandal was one of the two most shameful abuses of the judicial system in post war Britain. Coincidentally Hurt played the victim in the other one as well; "10 Rillington Place" (1971), in which Hurt is wrongly executed for a murder committed by his landlord, the now notorious serial killer John Christie.
"Scandal" is a powerful and arresting film with solid performances. Whalley has the biggest role and is a bit too intelligent looking to be completely believable as a character like Keeler. But she is so nice to look at that almost anyone would willingly trade credibility for scenery-and she is otherwise entirely convincing in an excellent performance. I first noticed her in "Willow", the film she made just before "Scandal". She had a secondary part but her scenes were the most memorable in the entire film. Hurt somehow sells you on the fact that his character derives an innocent joy from simply seeing a beautiful young woman walking down the street on a nice day.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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