Bedrooms and Hallways – remodel your love life

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

Blog www.liamlivings.com/blog.html

Twitter @LiamLivings

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.

Get Real ‘Nobody wants to go back to Basingstoke’

Get Real  ‘Nobody wants to go back to Basingstoke’

This is the first in a series of posts I’ve agreed to do about some of my favourite British Gay films.

OK, so they may not be as glossy and sweeping as American gay films. They may not have the high budgets, sun-kissed backgrounds and perfect chiselled torsos either. But there’s something so realistic and normal which I love about British films which I love.

Everyone’s heard of Beautiful Thing – a working class, urban fairytale. Don’t worry, I’ll do another post about that. But who’s heard of Get Real? It’s a middle class, suburban fairytale released in 1999?

Get Real is about Steve, a young British geeky guy, from a prep school, as he struggles to come out, and falls in love with John, the Oxford University bound, head boy/sports captain.  OK, this isn’t the only film to tell this story. But Get Real does it with a more realistic, British twist. John does fall in love back, but as it’s set in a rural town in Hampshire, coming out isn’t so easy. Not to mention little complications like John’s designer girlfriend, and Steve’s best friend Linda who’s always ready with a comeback to put most drag queens to shame.

It is in my top ten gay British films, for a number of reasons:

  • It’s set and filmed in my home county, Hampshire. I grew up just over half an hour away
  • I used to go to a gay youth group in Basingstoke so it has fond memories
  • When I saw it, I was about the same age as the main characters, just out of secondary school. The suffocating feeling of not being able to come out at secondary school, and secretly fancying the sports team at school, really resonated with me
  • It has some great lines and characters throughout

My favourite line, and one I still say with my friend Adam, whose mum still lives in the town, is ‘Nobody wants to go back to Basingstoke.’ This is from a scene when Steve complains to his best friend Linda how much he wants to return, to see John, his secret Head Boy lover. And trust me, if you’ve ever been there, it’s not a place people often hanker to return to.

When I saw the film I was pleased to recognise such sights as Basingstoke town centre and the cinema where I went to see the film on a double date with my best friend and our boyfriends. I think we were about the only people in the whole cinema. It had a very limited release outside London, and I suppose they thought they’d at least better show it in its home town – for all of a week.

There are some great characters, Linda’s sassiness and quips would give Leah from Beautiful Thing a run for her money.

Steve comes out in assembly in front of the whole school. And this being a British film, and not The Dead Poet’s Society, no one else stands up to join him.

Have you seen this film? What British gay films would you recommend, or like me to include in future blogs? I’d love to hear from you.

Liam Livings xx