I went to see Beautiful Thing, at the theatre this week, with Clare London and the Boyfriend. I’ve seen the play at least 3 times, and every time it doesn’t fail to move me with its crisp funny dialogue, brave story of an urban fairy tale, and great soundtrack. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve watched the film, I wore out my video copy after taping it from the TV the first time I saw it.
I enjoy watching new films, and am very excited about Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Behind the Candelabra (is there anything any camper in the whole wide world? Expect me to report back here later). However, with the constant supply of new films, I have lately not made time for my old classics: the films you watch again and again, cry and laugh at the same points, and are practically word perfect on throughout.
After the play, we dug out my (now on DVD) copy of Beautiful Thing and was pleased at how fresh it still is. At the time I first saw it on TV, I was the same age as Jamie and Ste in the film, which, combined with the fact the film was the catalyst for my coming out, means it has a special place in my media heart. Ok, so I didn’t grow up in Thamesmead, but the village I lived in also wasn’t a metropolitan gay hangout either. I went to university near Greenwich, and soon made The Gloucester, one of my regular haunts, hoping to see Dave Lynne just like in the film. While at university, I even took a bus all the way to Thamesmead for the full Beautiful Thing film experience!
We then watched Muriel’s Wedding, which, ever since it came out, has been on my favourite films list. When I first met the Boyfriend, I showed him Muriel’s Wedding - I was shocked and appalled he’d not seen it before. The Boyfriend noticed how worn my video copy was and that Christmas I had my very own DVD copy (in 2002 when DVDs were a rare and precious thing remember).
Reflecting on these two films watched back to back, it occurred to me they’re both about friendship and people changing in positive ways: Jamie and Ste come out, and at the end of the film, face the various reactions they’ll get from the world around them. This is perfectly shown by the final scene as they dance in Thamesmead, surrounded by neighbours, reacting in shock, disgust, ignorance, humour, and everything in between. Muriel realises that she isn’t useless, she isn’t nothing and escaping to Abba songs all day isn’t a life, it’s a life half lived. She meets Rhonda and says: ‘But since I’ve met you and moved to Sydney, I haven’t listened to one Abba song. That’s because my life’s as good as an Abba song. It’s as good as Dancing Queen.’
Before I came out, I often sought solace in escapist media, (Dawson’s Creek in case you didn’t already know) and as I gradually explored my new out life, I found myself needing less and less escape as my life was finally as good as a Dawson’s Creek episode. I had met a group of people with whom I could be myself, no apology, no change. So it’s no surprise these two films still mean so much to me, all these years later. Do you have films which have stayed with you through the years, which you return to time after time?
In other news, it’s been 6 weeks since I promised the publisher I’d been emailing, a copy of Best Friends Perfect, so I submitted it last night. The initial response was that it’s quite long (195,000 words) but not to let that dishearten me. And so I haven’t. I’ll wait and see what they think about it, and take it from there. It’s definitely a case of ‘let’s play it by ear’ as all good mums do. In the meantime I’m working on amends to The Second Book, and it should be ready for beta readers by later in summer.
Until next time