This is another review of one of my favourite gay British films. Another one from the nineties, but if you didn’t know, that’s one of my favourite recent *retro* periods.
Blurb: At the suggestion of a straight friend, gay man Leo joins a men’s group, where he causes some upsets by declaring his attraction to one of its members. (IMDB)
Angie, ‘Leo, you are a strawberry blond. You can’t go out with an ash blonde. It’s just not right.’
I accidently discovered this when visiting a friend at university in York. We’d spent Friday night out drinking and wanted a night in with a video – it was 1998 – and a takeaway. I was joined by my friend Kate, her boyfriend, and two gay friends. Unsurprisingly we ended up choosing this sexual identity, romantic comedy. I had campaigned hard for a complete avoidance of anything with action or horror in its description. I won, and it’s served me well ever since.
It’s a film which most people haven’t heard of. OK, so it wasn’t Four Weddings-successful. Yes, it doesn’t have the cult following of Beautiful Thing. But it’s got Leo (Kevin McKidd) in all his unassuming cuteness, Angie (Julie Graham) his trolley dolly flatmate, Darren (Tom Hollander) as a spectacularly camp and entertaining best friend of Leo, Brendan (James Purefoy) showing his full-on Irish smouldering charm, as well as Hugo Weaving as a sex obsessed estate agent.
What’s not to love?
I don’t want to give too much away, for it has a twisty plot with *I think* some surprising parts. It’s like a French farce or an Alan Ayckbourn play: there’s mistaken identity; men jumping out of windows in their underpants as house-owners return; witty one liners. It’s a film about how fluid sexuality is; how whether you’re gay, straight, bisexual, whatever, most people just want to be loved, and someone to share their lives with.
It starts with Leo’s surprise thirtieth birthday as he sulks about not wanting to join in. I like this, as it plunges you straight into the action: in the party you see the host of characters you gradually meet during the rest of the film. The story rewinds to the point at which Leo agrees to join the men’s group.
Gay men think they may be straight, straight men give being gay a go – some with more success than others. Some men and women cheer from the sidelines with encouragement, and others are horrified at talking about feelings ‘with other men’ or proclaim the sex police will be calling soon.
I love the scene as the straight man tells the other men about how it *felt* to have sex with a man and be passive, for the first time. And if you don’t like the sound of that, Darren’s (Hollander) outfits are worth a look, as well as seeing James Purefoy and Kevin McKidd kissing in bed together.
Go on, treat yourself, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!
Liam Livings xx
If you like what you’ve read here, I can be found mincing, mimsying and musing on the internet in various places.
Website www.liamlivings.com including free story samples
To meet me…I will be at the Feminist Library, in London reading an extract of my current WIP novel, And Then That Happened on 30 October at 7pm. I will be at the Festival of Romance in Bedford 9-10 November. More details on my blog.
Upcoming stories: I have the MM British set novella, Christmas Serendipity, published in December 2013. For more nineties retro camp, you can read the first part of the Best Friends Perfect series in spring 2014.