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Where to draw the Line May 25

“Where would you draw the line?” asked the trailers for BBC Two’s The Line of Beauty. Having watched the lacklustre first episode, I was tempted to draw it there. No, I thought, I’ll give it another chance – maybe it’ll get going in the second episode – and, fair enough, the second part was a little better, but still pretty naff. (I was doing my best to watch the last half hour while also listening with one ear to James Graham on the radio – more on that story later – but I don’t think I missed anything.)

I haven’t read the book (not really my sort of thing), but I understand that much of its success is down to Alan Hollinghurst’s use of language rather than the plot. This would certainly be supported by Andrew Davies’s adaptation which, although peppered with incident, lacks any real interest. The few plot twists present are so heavily signposted that nothing comes as a surprise. That the MP is having an affair with his PA is telegraphed earlier in the episode; that Leo would get bad AIDS is foreshadowed explicitly by (the rather good) Floella Benjamin in episode one. Oh, and you can tell who has AIDS in The Line of Beauty because they cough.

The story presents little insight into the 1980s. We learn that some Tory MPs were racist, some Tory MPs were homophobic, that some gay men had promiscuous sex (and some caught AIDS), and that yuppies took cocaine (a line of beauty – geddit?). It’s hardly ground-breaking stuff, is it? Stephen Tall – who has been enjoying the series and can offer an alternative view – flags up the episode’s one fun scene, where the main character, Nick, dances with the PM. (Presumably the decision was taken not to make any effort to impersonate Mrs T – you wouldn’t recognise her unless you knew.) Also on the plus side, Barbara Flynn was in it, and I did at least learn something: an ogee is an arc shape. (The character’s pretentious and self-deluding attempt to launch a magazine of this name reminded me off the guy who (successfully) pitched a pompous style mag on Dragon’s Den.)

I may as well watch the final episode now that I’ve seen the first two. Presumably we will learn that for all money and leisure time that the various characters have, everyone will end up unhappy thanks to marital infidelity, drug abuse and unprotected sex – and thus, the 1980s weren’t as great as the first episode made out. Aaaah, do you see what they did? I could be wrong, of course – if everyone lives happily ever after, that will be an unexpected twist.

2 Responses

  1. Beautifully summarised. I do think the acting is very fine: Don Gilet, Tim McInnerny, Dan Stevens are all brilliant. And of course, as you say, Barbara Flynn plays an excellent old bat. But I agree with your view that there is a lack of meat in this production. The nearest there has been to any real tension is when Kat self-harmed herself and formed a deep interesting relationship with Nick. Otherwise, it is all very superficial. And, as you point out, it seems we are brewing up for a big scandal with the MP exposed as bonking his PA (and presumably also some dark fate for the closeted heir to a fortune “Wani”). Big Deal.

    It seems that the production team thought that they would create a lot of amusement with a lot of hard bonking, mainly of the male/male variety. It does get a bit tedious after a while. There is no real dramatic tension in a lot of bonking.

  2. By “meat” I meant real substance, just in case there was any room for confusion! Phew – glad I added that!