Stiff Upper Lips

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To be distinguished from Stiff Upper Lip.
Stiff Upper Lips
Stiffupperlips.jpg
Directed by Gary Sinyor
Produced by Nigel Savage
Babs Thomas
Stephen Margolis
Keith Richardson
Bobby Bedi
Ricky Posner
Nigel Savage
Written by Paul Simpkin and Gary Sinyor
Starring Sean Pertwee
Georgina Cates
Prunella Scales
Peter Ustinov
Samuel West
Frank Finlay
Brian Glover
Robert Portal
Edited by Peter Hollywood
Distributed by Miramax
Release date(s) 1998
Country United Kingdom
Language English

Stiff Upper Lips (1998) is a broad parody of British period films, especially the lavish Merchant-Ivory productions of the 'eighties and early 'nineties. Although it specifically targets A Room with a View, Chariots of Fire, Maurice, A Passage to India, and many other films, in a more general way Stiff Upper Lips satirises popular perceptions of certain Edwardian traits: propriety, sexual repression, xenophobia, and class snobbery.[1]

The film was directed by Gary Sinyor and stars Sean Pertwee, Georgina Cates, Robert Portal, Samuel West, Prunella Scales, and Peter Ustinov. It was filmed on location in Italy, India, and on the Isle of Man.

Plot summary[edit]

England, 1908: Emily Ivory (Cates) is a wealthy young woman who lives with her Aunt Agnes (Scales) at Ivory's End, a large country house. At 22, as her aunt constantly reminds her, she is verging on spinsterhood. She meets her brother's best friend, Cedric Trilling (Portal), when the two come home from university. Aunt Agnes wants the two to fall in love: Cedric, however, is a pompous bore who is overly fond of quoting Homer on all sorts of not-quite-appropriate occasions; also, he's a repressed homosexual. When Emily's aunt sees the sparks failing to fly, she whisks everyone off to Italy, then India, hoping the romantic locations will bring on love.

Emily's eye, however, soon wanders to the family's new manservant, George (Pertwee), a sturdy peasant who, earlier in the film, had the effrontery to fling off all his clothes and save her life when she was drowning in a pond. Now, Emily can't seem to forget his tall, manly frame and his "ripping set of unmentionables." (George, a sort of Heathcliff/Gamekeeper/Working Class Hero hybrid, has a peculiar way of entering a room; he rushes in, slides to a stop in the middle of the floor with eyes blazing and one shoulder forward, and tosses his cap aside).

With George, Emily achieves carnal fulfillment, true love, and, eventually, motherhood and marriage. Although the upper-class characters disapprove of the alliance, nobody is more scandalised than George's father, who keeps reminding his son that he's "the scum of the earth." When Emily becomes pregnant, she suggests giving the child to George's father; George, appalled, begs her to sell it to pirates, abandon it on a mountain, or let it be raised by wolves instead.

Cedric, too, finds love with Edward (West), Emily's handsome, cheerful twit of a brother. In that era, it was "the love that dare not speak its name"; however, during Emily's wedding scene, Edward takes Cedric's arm and shouts "WE LOVE EACH OTHER!" in church. Even Aunt Agnes meets someone special - an expatriate Englishman (Ustinov) who owns a tea plantation in India. At the end of the film, despite class differences, sexual taboos, and age prejudice, everyone seems likely to lead happy, sexually fulfilled lives ever after.

Cast[edit]

Critical reception[edit]

Stiff Upper Lips received mixed reviews. Alexander Walker of the Evening Standard called it "A Spot of Spiffing Spoofery" while the Time Out reviewer said "it is beautifully acted and consistently spot on".[2] Stephen Holden of the New York Times, however, lamented "If only it were funnier".[3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]