Monday, 7 April 2014

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1987)

"She's especially intrigued and totally knocked out by you having a 'W' tattooed on each buttock. Rosie wants to know if it's some kind of New York code?"

"'s just so that if I bend over it spells WOW"

Stephen Frears and Hanif Kureishi's follow up to their unlikely hit My Beautiful Laundrette is a heightened and somewhat satirical take on the Brixton Riots (and please do take the time out to sign the petition to grant legal aid for the inquest into the death of Cherry Groce, the innocent woman slain by The Met which sparked the riots. Her family delivered 130,000 signatures to Downing Street last week and the case has been referred Chris Grayling, Justice Minister, to make a decision - but it's important the petition keeps going) and a palpably angry missive against Thatcher's Britain as a whole.

As with Laundrette, Frears and Kureishi present the same kind of witty, vibrant yet dangerous multi cultural vision of inner city London from a left wing, socially aware perspective. A place where its inhabitants and the key characters of the film - such as the titular Sammy and Danny (Ayub Khan-Din and Frances Barber) happily, and interracially, get laid thanks to their right on and upwardly mobile sense of both sexual and political liberation.  But at the same time they are getting systematically laid by a government and established order who are happy to see inequality and oppression for all races in the urban sprawl. The sex, even the love is just a distraction from that and the film's positive message that black or white doesn't matter, we're all in this together against those who truly have and are happy to exploit and keep us under their iron (ladies) fist is a bold clarion call.  

Cleverly, the notion of old England and the stereotypes inherent to such halcyon days are given not to an ageing white man or woman but to the character of Sammy's father, a corrupt Pakistani politician returning to London one more time and played expertly by veteran actor Shashi Kapoor. His Britain is, as he says, one of "Hot buttered toast on a fork in front of an open fire..." 

predictably enough

 "... and cunty fingers" 

perhaps less so! 

Ultimately it is this character who must pay for the exploitation he has lived off in his past and face facts and learn the consequences in a way that it is clear the film believes that Thatcher and her ilk were required to pay. 

That said it's not at all po faced, though I can understand the criticisms of pretension and silliness - especially regarding the latter during the heightened scenes of a glammed up Frances Barber strolling casually through the violent melees of the riots. As with all Kureishi's work there's an unabashed bitter and dry humour to the proceedings and some fitfully very funny such as the almost silent movie style slapstick of Kapoor's hurried escape from the house amidst the height of the riot, whilst Sammy singularly fails to notice the panic, listening to music on his walkman and munching on a McDonalds - of course. There's even a slight return to the kind of enigmatic streetwise tough guide character that was previously played to perfection in Laundrette by Daniel Day Lewis but played with less success here by Fine Young Cannibals singer Roland Gift. Not a bad frontman/musician, but not a great actor.

Ultimately though, Sammy and Rosie is a good and definitive 1980s British film, but not as good a film as Laundrette.

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