Thursday, 27 February 2014

Queers At The Drive-In: Beautiful Thing (1996)

Hi all,
For the closing day of gay film week, I've chosen to watch a film very close to my heart. This was one of the films I watched when I was coming out and it's no understatement to say that this story and I have been through quite a journey together as I discuss in my review. Needless to say, this is one of my absolute favourite movies and I think a perfect way to conclude this week, which despite being billed as a queer film week wasn't particularly queer. Sorry about that, they were just the five films I'd been wanting to see for some time... Anyway, what this week has proven is that there are so many different gay stories out there, it's just a matter of finding one that really moves you and that you relate to. By viewing such a diverse range of films, maybe I've helped you find a new favourite. Wishful thinking on my part, probably :)
 
 Beautiful Thing
1996, UK, Directed by Hettie Macdonald
It’s almost impossible to explain how much this film means to the gay community. Released at the height of British paranoia about homosexuality, it showed that two boys could fall in love and be happy, more than that. It showed that two boys could fall in love and be happy despite the hatred around them. It’s a harrowing and sometimes painful film to watch, which may have been the reason this film didn’t instantly become one of my favourites upon first viewing several years ago. I was in need of a happy gay story which had a clean-cut happy ending, like all heterosexual romances. I didn’t get it and that was why I disliked this movie so much. For years I thought that widespread public acclaim was a load of bollocks. It didn’t deserve it. And then I realised that I was incredibly stupid. Over the last year or so, this film has undergone a complete reversal in my mind. When I did my list of favourite films in April (of the 300 that I’d seen at that stage), it languished at No. 120. When I reached 500 in January, it shot up to No. 58. On my naïve first viewing, I wanted happiness and simplicity. Basically, I wanted a fairy tale without any struggle or pain. With the intervening years, I’ve realised that this is impossible. Being gay is hard. Homophobia and fear are huge problems and not just from the community, it’s also inside you, as you wage an inner battle trying to decide if you are able to follow your heart even if it is against society’s (and possibly your family’s) vision of normality. What makes Beautiful Thing special is that it’s all about hope. It’s about the ability of love to conquer all other problems. It’s about devotion and loss. It’s about how much our families sacrifice for us. But what it’s mainly about is the desperate attempt to find some small ray of hope within the darkest of times. The iconic final scene, where the main characters dance together to Mama Cass’ ‘Dream A Little Dream’, is all about this. Two boys dance together, ignoring the rest of the world and its homophobia, happy in each other’s arms. It’s a glorious and beautiful scene in the single most harrowing and hopeful gay film ever.
Sex/Nudity: 2 (a beautiful kiss and a few naked bums, but compared to yesterday, it’s nothing)
Glamorousness: 1 (there’s nothing glamorised about the gay lifestyle here. The main characters face homophobia and one of them is beaten up by his dad and brother)
Stereotypes: 1 (no screaming queens here. Well, except for the drag queen, but even that feels real)
Best Scene: The slow dance conclusion
Overall Verdict: 10
    For Australians, SBS is broadcasting the Mardi Gras event highlights on Sunday at 8:30pm. I know what I'll be doing Sunday!
   Also, on Friday of next week, I'll hopefully be introducing a new regular review feature on the blog. Just a hint, there's already a few reviews on here that could easily fit in... Just thought I'd give you a bit of a heads up.
Bye for now!
Thanks,
James

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