Beautiful Thing (film)

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Beautiful Thing
Btaus.jpg
Australian promotional poster for the film
Directed by Hettie MacDonald
Produced by Tony Garnett
Bill Shapter
Written by Jonathan Harvey
Starring Linda Henry
Ben Daniels
Glen Berry
Scott Neal
Tameka Empson
Music by John Altman
Studio Film4 Productions
Release dates 21 June 1996
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office 3,072,738 $[1]

Beautiful Thing is a 1996 British film directed by Hettie MacDonald and released by Channel 4 Films.[2] The screenplay was written by Jonathan Harvey based on his own original play of the same name. Initially, the film was only intended for television broadcast but it was so well-received that it was released in cinemas. The atmosphere of the film is heavily influenced by a soundtrack consisting almost entirely of the work of Mama Cass Elliot.

Plot[edit]

The story is set and filmed on Thamesmead, a working class area of South East London dominated by post-war council estates.[3][4]

Jamie (Glen Berry), a teenager who is infatuated with his classmate, Ste, has to deal with his single mother Sandra (Linda Henry), who is pre-occupied with ambitious plans to run her own pub and with an ever-changing string of lovers, the latest of whom is Tony (Ben Daniels), a neo-hippie. Sandra finds herself at odds with Leah (Tameka Empson), a sassy and rude neighbour who has been expelled from school, does several drugs, and constantly listens and sings along to her mother's Cass Elliot records. While Jamie's homosexuality remains concealed, his introvert nature and dislike of football are reason enough for his classmates to bully him at every opportunity.

Ste (Scott Neal), who is living together with his drug-dealing brother and abusive, alcoholic father in the flat next door, is one night beaten by his brother so badly that Sandra takes pity and lets him sleep over. In the absence of a third bed, Ste has to make do with sleeping 'top-to-toe' with Jamie. On the second night they share a bed: after a massage and a minor conversation, the boys soon change sleeping arrangements and Jamie kisses Ste for the first time.

The next morning, Ste panics and leaves before Jamie awakens, avoiding him for days. Jamie works up the nerve to steal a Gay Times from a newsagent, apparently starting to accept his sexuality and affection for Ste. Jamie finally spots Ste at a nearby party and confronts him; they prepare to leave together. The party ends badly, with Sandra taking vengeance on Leah for gossiping, who then threatens to 'spill the beans' about Ste and Jamie and confesses to having covered up for Ste in front of his father and brother. Ste reacts poorly, angrily rejecting Jamie and running away.

Slowly, Ste accepts Jamie's love and their relationship begins to develop as they visit a gay pub together. Sandra follows them and discovers their secret, and the film reaches its climax as a bad trip by Leah (on an unnamed drug) precipitates Sandra's breakup with Tony; the news of Sandra's new job comes out; and Sandra confronts Ste and Jamie. Sandra comes to accept her son's relationship.

The film ends with the two boys slow-dancing in the courtyard of their council flats to the Cass Elliot song "Dream a Little Dream of Me", while a guarding Sandra dances defiantly at their side with Leah as the local residents look on; some of them shocked, some of them enjoying the moment themselves.

Cast[edit]

US promotional poster for the film
Actor Role
Glen Berry Jamie Gangel
Scott Neal Ste Pearce
Linda Henry Sandra Gangel
Ben Daniels Tony
Tameka Empson Leah Russell
Jeillo Edwards Rose
Anna Karen Marlene
Sophie Stanton Louise
Julie Smith Gina
Terry Duggan Kevin
Garry Cooper Ronnie Pearce
Daniel Bowers Trevor Pearce
Meera Syal Miss Chauhan
Martin Walsh Mr. Bennett
Steven Martin Ryan McBride
Andrew Fraser Jayson
John Savage Lenny
Ozdemir Mamodeally Slasher
John Benfield Rodney Barr
Davyd Harries Brewery Official
Beth Goddard Brewery Official
Marlene Sidaway Betty
Liane Ware Claire
Catherine Sanderson Kelly
Dave Lynn Drag Performer
Jonathan Harvey Wheelchair Queen (uncredited)

Reception[edit]

The film received positive reviews from critics. As of October 2, 2010 the film holds a 90% approval rating on the reviewing aggregator site "Rotten Tomatoes".[5]

Home media[edit]

The film has no overall worldwide distributor. The film was released on DVD in UK 2001 and again in 2007.

Links to other media[edit]

Some of the actors that appeared in Beautiful Thing appeared in other work by Jonathan Harvey.

  • Tameka Empson and Meera Syal played major roles in Beautiful People.
  • Empson and Linda Henry now appear in EastEnders.
  • Beth Goddard appeared in Gimme Gimme Gimme.
  • Harvey himself made a cameo appearance, which he also did in Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful People.

Soundtrack[edit]

Beautiful Thing
Soundtrack album by Mama Cass and The Mamas & the Papas
Released October 15, 1996
Genre Pop
Label MCA Records

A soundtrack for the film was released by MCA Records on October 15, 1996.[6]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "It's Getting Better"   Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil Mama Cass 2:59
2. "One Way Ticket"   Bruce Hart, Stephen J. Lawrence Mama Cass 2:46
3. "California Earthquake"   John Hartford Mama Cass 3:22
4. "Welcome to The World"   Martin Eagle Siegal, Scott English Mama Cass 2:19
5. "Make Your Own Kind of Music"   Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil Mama Cass 2:19
6. "Creeque Alley"   John Phillips, Michelle Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 3:48
7. "Dream a Little Dream of Me"   Fabian Andre, Wilbur Schwandt The Mamas and The Papas 3:13
8. "Move in a Little Closer Baby"   Robert O'Connor, Arnold Jay Capitanelli Mama Cass 2:37
9. "California Dreamin'"   John Phillips, Michelle Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 2:40
10. "Monday, Monday"   John Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 3:27
11. "I Saw Her Again"   John Phillips, Denny Doherty The Mamas and The Papas 3:13
12. "Words of Love"   John Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 2:11
13. "Dedicated to the One I Love"   Lowman Pauling, Ralph Bass The Mamas and The Papas 2:58
14. "Look Through My Window"   John Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 3:05
15. "Go Where You Wanna Go"   John Phillips The Mamas and The Papas 2:29
16. "Beautiful Thing Medley"   John Altman John Altman 7:59

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Beautiful Thing". Jpbox-office.com. 
  2. ^ Derek Elley (10 March 1996). "Beautiful Thing". Variety. p. 77. "Pic, which also unspools at this year's AFM, had buyers scrambling for their cell phones in the Berlin market and is rumored to be a contender for a spot in the sun at Cannes. Its world preem is set for March 28 in the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival." 
  3. ^ Benedict Nightingale (3 August 1993). "If only things were so simple". The Times. "Into the Bush we go and what strikes our eager eyes? Concrete paving, grey stucco walls, drab doors with 368, 369 and 370 embossed on them, and, as a feeble protest against the gloom, a few flowerpots and plaster dwarfs. This is the third floor of a council estate in Thamesmead, and as unlikely a setting for a play called Beautiful Thing as Buckingham Palace's gardens would be for Les Miserables." 
  4. ^ "The council cries foul play". Evening Standard. 24 November 1994. p. 43. "Jonathan Harvey's West End hit Beautiful Thing is 'sickening' – that's official – as far as Bexley Borough Council is concerned. Harvey's play, about gay love is, of course, set in Thamesmead, part of which falls under the council's aegis. You might think fame for the borough would fill the breast of Bexley Tory councillor Graham R Holland, but no. The Duke of York's Theatre last week received a very severe letter from him on the council's headed paper. It criticises the billing of Harvey's gay love story as a comedy, and says the Holland family were 'intimidated' by gays in the bar and that they found 'the sight of older men with young lads was sickening, if legal'. He goes on to complain about the play's 'sordid' language: 'It was gratuitous, foul and offensive and was neither relevant nor, with my experience of Thamesmead ... in any way typical of the young people with whom I am in contact.' The shocked family group left after 20 minutes." 
  5. ^ Beautiful Thing Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ Beautiful Thing soundtrack. Amazon.com. Retrieved November 30, 2008.

External links[edit]