Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Dirtysomething (1994)

"When is a house not a house?"

"When it's a home"

"Where is home?"

"Where your heart is"

"Play it safe son, never get off the bus"

Dirtysomething is a 1994 Screen Two drama and the debut of Rachel Weisz. It's never been repeated or released on video or DVD but it has become via word of mouth and the passing of around of copies something of a cult classic, untouched by the masses. There's even a Facebook page dedicated to it and some wonderful person has uploaded it to YouTube.

The story concerns Weisz's character Becca and her boyfriend Dog played by former Press Gang and Let Him Have It star Paul Reynolds. The dreadlocked couple live the alternative lifestyle; they are nomadic, travellers, 'crusties' - which at the time was very much in vogue and in the news here in the UK. When the film starts we are at the end of summer and the festival season. Becca, restless at the oncoming winter, impresses upon the complacent Dog the importance of finding somewhere else to stay other than their caravan beneath The Westway. 

Taking the bull by the horns, Becca travels out to Weybridge to find an abandoned house in a street full of bricked up, derelict terraces that they can use as a squat. But the house she picks isn't empty, a lonely old man (Walter Sparrow) lives there. Rather than throw Becca out, he welcomes her in along with Dog and their feckless and wise older traveller friend Larry (the great Bernard Hill) and their dog, Leggit. Bill tells them he hasn't long to live and, to prove that point, promptly dies on them one night.  The trio, fearful of notifying the authorities in case they suspect them of foul play because of their lifestyle, decide to cremate Bill's body (as was his wishes) on the quiet, thanks to a friend who works at a pet cemetery!, and stay at the house for the winter, with Becca taking an office job to pay the rent and avoid any unwanted attention.

What follows is like The Good Life in reverse as the crusties endeavour to approach the normal home owning 9 to 5 life with some difficulty, with the glib Larry and the idle and impressionable Dog lazing around all day putting the dirty dishes out in the garden for the rain to wash them whilst Becca puts in the hours at the office and begins to get close to her yuppie, former backpacker boss played by Rufus Sewell.

Written by Peter Salmi and Carl Prechezer (who also directs the film) Dirtysomething cleverly subverts expectations by initially making the humdrum seem appealing as slowly but surely both Dog and Becca embrace normality with Dog showing an unexpected flair and passion for home improvements and decoration. Ultimately it becomes clear that the house is breaking the lovebirds up as it and their associated place in normal society begins to represent different things to each of them. The message is clear; material positions and respectability mean nothing if you don't have each other. That is what is important in life.

So yeah, "Play it safe...never get off the bus"

Dirtysomething is a deserved cult classic and deserves to be more widely seen. It's a very funny, charming and romantic film very much of its time.

God I miss the 90s.

To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic plays please sign the petition I started here

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