Wednesday, May 19, 2004

BBC heaven

Dear Reader, you see before you the deliriously happy owner of the BBC's adaptation of Tipping the Velvet. I've been waiting for over a year to see this miniseries, and I've finally, finally managed it. I bought it as soon as I got back and, since there's no privacy whatsoever in my home, I've been watching it in pieces, snatching the opportunity when everyone's in bed or I'm alone in the house. It's the uncut UK version, very hot stuff. Not something I want my family to walk in on, especially since they're still dealing with my coming out.
But oh this is a gorgeous production. It's got Andrew Davies' stamp all over it. And it was cast perfectly. Keeley Hawes was made to play Kitty Butler, the dashing male impersonator, and I can't imagine anyone other than Rachael Stirling as the heroine Nan Astley. She's just heartbreakingly beautiful (and when your mother is Diana Rigg how could you be otherwise?)--in fact she's almost too pretty to play the butch Nan, if it wasn't for that sexy, husky voice of hers. (Okay Anne. Breathe.)
One of the best surprises was how wonderful Hugh Bonneville was as the lovely Ralph Banner. It's just a bit part but Bonneville brings depth to it. I'm more and more impressed by him every time I see him. He just transforms seamlessly into every role, whether as the Upper-Class Twit Mr. Rushworth in Mansfield Park or as the Evil Villain in Daniel Deronda. I loved Jodhi May as his sister Flo, even if Davies does a bit of a disservice to her character by making her more naive and innocent than she is in the book. In the book she explains the phrase "tipping the velvet" (Victorian slang for cunnilingus)to Nan; in the movie it's the other way around. And I must say I never, ever in a million years thought I would witness Anna Chancellor do it with a girl in a strap-on. But just like the rest of the cast, she's the only actress who could play that nasty piece of work Diana Lethaby (she just does "nasty" so well).
The book is just one big Victorian soap opera and a perfect subject for the melodramatic Davies. He mangles the ending a bit, but not enough to annoy me, and actually gives us a little more closure than the book. Thankfully the movie doesn't suffer from Davies' characteristic excessiveness, because he gets it; the movie, just like the book, is an unabashedly queer bildungsroman. Unfortunately my review of the book isn't worth reading; I mostly spend it being nervous and highly closeted. Hopefully I'll come up with something interesting to say the next time I read it.
God I wish I had BBC America. You sure as hell won't find this on Masterpiece Theatre.


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