Friday, June 02, 2006

Line out

After 2 hours of young men leaping into sun-dappled lakes whilst the camera lingered over their speedos... in the final hour... at last... and much welcome... Dan Stevens had something to do except practice his 'unfocused gaze into middle distance to convey I'm an aesthete detached from the tangible concerns of Thatcherite Britain'. And it was a good 'un. I nearly cried. I'm happy to report The Line of Beauty actually had a plot, a theme and even some ideas rather than just gratuitous buttock shots, Poirot stylie dinner parties and extended sequences of elegant young men gurning and spasming during orgasm! And it was about time...

There were still some dubious bits. Kat was the most content and motivated depressive I've ever seen. And her mania was indicated only by an appreciation of black lace gloves and a desire to move to Bermuda. Whether she was supposed to be the only sane and sensible character in the piece, I don't know. Maybe this was the point. If so, it succeeded. As if on my suggestion, Wani not only coughed but also had warts around his nose and lip (hmmmmm, she says... sceptically). He was also grey/green in colour... VERY grey/green in colour. When he staggered from the table in L'escargot, I almost expected him to fling off his huge overcoat to unfurl enormous sickly yellow wings dripping with goo. As he stretched them, he would form a dark silhouette against the restaurant archway before shattering the wall lights. The sound of flapping skin would become masked by the shrieks of asset-stripping London yuppies tripping over tables as they were plunged into inky darkness. The only light would be Alex W's burning green eyes. Suddenly (in an attempt to introduce additional attractive men), there would be a faint blue light and David Tennant's face would be illuminated by the glow of his sonic screwdriver as he made a random quib about snails [snip... ok, enough of that. It's making me all hot and bothered]... Wani's somewhat overdone illness detracted from the evident human tragedy of the situation, the waste of life and the fear of AIDs (which I remember from my childhood). This was conveyed far more effectively by some of Dan Steven's more understated scenes surrounding Leo's death and was the first time I felt this theme had really been communicated to the viewer.

Other themes suddenly emerged in the last 1/2 an hour: that Nick Guest had deluded himself into believing he 'belonged' in the Fedden household (which made his denouncement with all its openly, vilely homophobic overtones all the more painful to watch), that Gerald Fedden's affair caused great pain to his daughter, that the household was not only plagued by old-fashioned formality but had no real warmth underneath* and that Nick maintained his presence in that circle by being unassuming, polite, unchallenging and vacant (I was relieved when Nick finally developed something approaching a backbone in the last 15 minutes. If it had been me Barry had called a pansy then he wouldn't have got a look of backpedalled shock. He'd have been told that I might be a 'pansy' but at least I had the address of a decent dentist... but I doubt I'd have lasted the first summer in the Fedden household). All style, fragility and a lack of substance - just like the Ogee magazine, Nick Guest's presence within the High Tory set... etc, etc. So the last 1/2 an hour told you everything Alan Hollinghurst wanted you to take away from The Line of Beauty. Either the book was turgid or Andrew Davies decided watching nice-looking blokes sh****g was 'controversial' (grow up Andrew Davies). Either way, it would have been much improved by compacting the first 2 hours into 1 hour (3 part novel be d****d) and making it a two-parter.

So, after watching the entire adaptation - should you watch it? Well, yes... but I'd recommend watching the first two episodes with your finger on the fast-forward button, just to get a feel for how Nick gets himself into the situation. Then watch episode 3.

* Just like to make the caveat that I don't buy the whole '1980s Tories = personally nasty people'. Personal morality is reassuringly complex and to take that route is just lazy, popularist short-hand. I'll give Alan Hollinghurst the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was just implying the Feddens and their friends (birds of a feather n' all) deserved to be lined up and shot.


  • At 3:19 pm , Blogger Steve Graves said...

    Great review - haven't read the book but definitely want to now, as I enjoyed the show. Given that any Andrew Davies adaptation is generally 50-75% worse than its source material (a well-known scientific fact), Hollinghurst's original must be pretty decent.


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