My Beautiful Laundrette Reviews
He had directed an odd movie featuring all of these players and followed that with a brilliant cult film, "The Hit." But it would take a year or two before "The Hit" found it's way outside of the UK. It was this film that made it to us first.
"My Beautiful Launderette" was a major game-changer for Frears, Day-Lewis and Independent British Film.
Set within The Pakistani "community" of South London at the height of "Thatcher's England" -- an upper-middle-class family man tries to help his struggling immigrant brother and his son. The head of the family wants to help his once successful brother, but has pretty much given up. His nephew is a different matter. Ambitious, smart and good-looking he is able to quickly earn the trust of his uncle to take over the running of one of his many businesses. A tiny launderette.
Omar played by with realistic ease by Gordon Warnecke. As this business venture requires a great deal of "elbow grease" he seeks out his old pal, Johnny. Played brilliantly by a very young Daniel Day-Lewis, Johnny has been running and living with a gang of white thugs -- all of whom seem to be on the verge of becoming full blown skinheads. Desperate to find a way out of his dreary life, Johnny agrees to help his old pal out.
It doesn't take long to realize that Johnny and Omar are both victims of a corrupt England and of "ideals" that are more easily stated than achieving. Both feel and are "outsiders" looking and trying to find a way in.
Along the way they each end up fully owning their real feeling toward each other and sex. As their happiness starts to bloom, the threat of being pushed further outside of "Thatcher's England's" dream forces them to make a choice.
Stephen Frears' film remains gleefully angry, bold, gritty, explicit and funny. But no punches are spared. Sexuality, racism and an oppressive government are at the core of this story. Fears' pulls us into a cultural and societal mess that refuses to release our eyes from the screen.
The audience, like the two lead gay characters, are also forced to confront ideas around identity, faith, family, economics, love and the all-important decision to stand and fight -- or give up and conform.
"My Beautiful Launderette" is as angry as it is beautiful.
Almost immediately after this movie, Stephen Frears would go on to make two amazing and underrated films, "Prick Up Your Ears" and "Sammy and Rosie Get Laid."
Those two films and especially this one retain a level of unrestrained rebellion, energy and grit that he would never regain. It is both hard and sad to believe that this is the same director who now creates mediocre films. One of which essentially honors The Queen.
The road to success and fame can lead some right into what they used to rail against. But there will always be 4 nearly perfect movies:
"Prick Up Your Ears"
"Sammy and Rosie Get Laid"
and this one. "May Beautiful Launderette" remains his greatest cinematic achievement.
Having been made in 1985, My Beautiful Laundrette takes place in south London at the height of the Thatcher era. It tells the story of Omar, a Pakistani businessman who takes over his family's laundrette, with the help of his lover, Johnny. However, both of them are tangled up in their own problems. As the son of a first generation immigrant, Omar wants to make it in England, but his efforts are complicated by his involvement with Salim (a drug trafficker) as well as threats from a gang of racists. Johnny also has his own set of problems, since he is a former white supremacist from that gang, and he wants to use this business partnership as an opportunity to start over.
When I first saw this movie, I didn't know how to feel about it. There were definitely parts that really resonated with me, but there were other parts that felt outright bizarre. Most movies you watch and then forget about 20 minutes later, but in this case, even when I wasn't sure whether I liked it or not, I couldn't get it out of my mind. I knew I had to see it again. That was when I fully realised how great it was. First of all, what's so fascinating about Laundrette is that it was made in the 80s, but it doesn't feel dated. Instead, it feels more like a period piece that's made to capture a really specific part of British history, like Billy Elliot.
Laundrette only takes place within a small time frame, but it's enough for us to really get a sense of what life was like in this part of England, in this point in time, and how different people got through it. We see immigrants like Omar's father who hate the British government, and on the opposite end, immigrants like Omar and his uncle who want to succeed in this new country. We also have white characters who feel threatened by immigration, as well as white characters who are in the middle. Really, everyone has their own identity crisis, and their own desire to belong somewhere.
Of course, we can't talk about this movie without talking about the acting. There are some really good performances from Saeed Jaffrey and Roshan Seth, both of whom create really interesting and memorable characters, but of course, the big standout is Daniel Day-Lewis. As many people have pointed out, this film came out the exact same year as A Room with a View, where he plays a character so different that it's hard for you to believe they're the same person. People were blown away by it in the 80s, and it's still mind blowing today. He made this film before method acting became a standard part of his process, but even then, he still brings a real sense of humanity and depth to his character. We know Johnny has a rough past with fascist gangs, but we don't get the sense that he has any deep-seated hatred for immigrants. Instead, he's a troubled young person who only got involved with these people because he felt his life was going nowhere, and that group at least gave him an identity and a purpose. That's why people like this are so easy to recruit in real life.
I could go on and on about this movie, because every time I watch it, I want to know more about this world, and more about the characters. I seriously think it would make an awesome TV show, and I'd watch the hell out of it. With that said though, if I were to nitpick, there are a couple of faults here and there. Laundrette was made on a shoestring budget. It was originally going to be a TV movie, but it ended up getting a theatrical release, and ... it shows, because the production values aren't always that good. And then of course there's the music. The bubble music. When I first saw it, it really put me off, but oddly enough, if you watch it again and you know it's coming, you can kinda laugh at it, or try to ignore it. Still, if you're willing to look past it, there is a lot to like in this movie. The acting is great, the story is relatively simple, but it's still great. In terms of representation, it's awesome. I know the film as a whole might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I still can't recommend it enough.
Enclosed by a synth-pop heavy pulse, the film starts with Johnny and his gang being expelled from their squatting apartment by some heavies, a similar territory Daniel Day-Lewis would retread in IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER (1993), then cutting to introduce another protagonist, Omar, a college dropout sent to work for his uncle Nasser (Jaffrey) by his bed-ridden father (Seth), a disillusioned idealist and leftist), in Nasser's car-washing lot, Omar meets Nasser's business partner Salim (Branche), a menacing and overbearing bully who conducts some seedy business and Nasser's mistress Rachel (Anne Field), who assumes a quite modernized view of being the other woman, but the entire entanglement will end up with some ludicrous witchcraft.
Omar is ambitious and fast-learning, soon he gets the permission to run Nasser's dilapidated laundromat, and reunites with Johnny, who has been his best friend since childhood, together they embezzle the dough from Salim's underhand drug smuggling and refurbish the laundrette and make a successful business, their romance is also rekindled. But at the same time, Omar is obliged by Nasser to marry his disobedient daughter Tania (Wolf), and Johnny is reckoned as a betrayer by his ne'er-do-well gang members since he is working for Palestinians (also as an unscrewer for kick out Nasser's impecunious tenants), in addition to the conflict between Omar and Salim, there will be blood in the end.
Violence is a requisite in depicting the gulf between well-off immigrants and poverty-stricken native malcontents, xenophobia, racial bias and chauvinism, all can be easily related and incited under the harsh environs, but Frears doesn't attempt to make a point by resorting too much to the excesses, whereas the tender, masculine attraction between two men is rendered with cozy panache and passion, truly, it is an in-the-closet relationship, but it is not about coming-out or AIDs, these routine trappings of the era, their future might be a moot point, however, the virtue of their love strikes as comfortingly authentic and endearing, thanks to the great pair Warnecke and Day-Lewis, one is resolutely sincere and the other is overwhelmingly charismatic, they do make a desirable couple together! Juxtaposed with its peers like MAURICE (1987, 7/10) and ANOTHER COUNTRY (1984, 8/10), MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE's grassroots ambience and buoyant undertones applicably complement the missing piece of the UK queer cinema menagerie, not revolutionary, but a wonderful bliss indeed.