Reel Affirmations 2006
Review by Will O’Bryan
Rating: (3 out of 5)
Saturday, 10/14/2006, 11:30 AM
Feature presentation, $9 at Lincoln Theatre
THE FRENCH SEEM to love stories about social class that end with the common folk in bloody revolt. Look to La Cérémonie‘s shotgun ending, or Sister My Sister‘s scissor-wielding pair of angry, incestuous servants. (Thanks much, Robespierre.) The British, on the other hand, prefer their tales of household dramas to focus on the devoted diligence of the underlings who serve the overlords. See the ’70s series Upstairs, Downstairs, or Anthony Hopkins as Stevens the butler in Remains of the Day.
Give the humble, British sensibility a 1980s aesthetic, and you have The Line of Beauty, a recently produced, three-hour BBC miniseries. While bourgeois Nick, the gay protagonist, may not work for the Fedden family, there is no mistaking ”his place” in the pecking order. The senior Fedden is a Conservative member of Parliament. Nick (Dan Stevens) is his son’s best friend from Oxford, in need of a place to stay in London. And so begins his years-long involvement with the Fedden family.
As a mini-series, The Line of Beauty doesn’t run in a simple arc, but rather with a series of small climaxes — some quite literal in this mildly graphic series. AIDS, anal sex, cocaine-fueled yuppies, Margaret Thatcher and some old music from Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran all make it into the mix. And while light on plot, here’s a bit of a spoiler: This offering is depressing. Perhaps that’s the point. After all, despite all the Reagan-esque good times, the ’80s were depressing. All of Nick’s doting on the high-powered family’s crazy daughter, his infusion of innocence into their halls of power, comes crashing down in the story’s final moments. The reward for these three hours is the delicious final blow, offered by the family’s Italian housekeeper.
While the sex might keep audiences in their seats, there is also the thoroughly entrancing performing by Alice ”The Borg Queen” Krige as the MP’s elegant wife. It’s also a good chance to familiarize oneself with Hayley Atwell as crazy daughter Cat — she’ll be busting onto the American scene shortly. The acting is lovely, the dialogue engaging, but the story, like the ’80s themselves, hollow. The point is made, but it’s not necessarily an entertaining one. — WOB