This book explores the interactions of comedy and drama within a group of significant and influential films released during the decade of the 1990s. It examines a group of British films from this period which engage with economic and social issues in unusual and compelling ways. Brassed Off and The Full Monty are two films invoking very different cultural traditions as possible activities for unemployed males and troubled communities in modern British society. The book then discusses a number of contemporary British films focusing upon the experiences of British-Asian and African-Caribbean characters and their efforts to feel 'at home' in Western and British society. It features an extensive analysis of East is East, a comedy-drama about the cultural and ideological tensions surfacing between members of a British-Asian family living in Salford, circa 1971. Next, the book includes case studies of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually. It investigates the ways in which humour is deployed for dramatic and emotional effect in the context of scenarios dealing with such seemingly non-comic subjects as mass unemployment, failed or uneasy relationships, bitter family disputes, or instances of racial tension and conflict in British society. The book demonstrates that the interaction of comic and dramatic modes of narration within the films discussed proved to be a dynamic creative mechanism in 1990s British cinema, facilitating and enabling the construction of innovative and genuinely exploratory narratives about characters who are striving to realise particular aspirations and hopes within a complex culture.
Sex and desire in British films of the 2000s examines how film-makers in British cinema rose to the challenge of portraying a wide-ranging set of individual characters’ personal desires and intimate encounters, past and present, as the social, political and economic landscape changed during the twenty-first century. The book aims to demonstrate that key British films of this era succeeded in engaging with the themes of love, sex and desire in productive, imaginative and thought-provoking ways. The study includes chapters on the lives, loves and troubled relationships of Oscar Wilde, Sylvia Plath and Iris Murdoch, and an examination of the Bridget Jones film trilogy following her emotional journey from the ‘edge of reason’ to marriage and motherhood. The chapter entitled ‘The way we live now’ focuses on dramas centred on relationships taking place in modern times and settings, while the chapter ‘Sex and sensibility’ takes a close look at movies such as The Look of Love, 9 Songs and I Want Candy, which explore sexual desires in fascinating, unpredictable and controversial ways. An afterword considers how the 2011 film Perfect Sense brings to vivid life the differing ways in which a deadly virus can affect intimate and personal relationships between human beings. The book examines a series of complex and compelling films which explore how we may currently live out our hopes, fears and desires in relation to sexual matters and affairs of the heart.
‘Tears of laughter': comedy-drama in 1990s British cinema
This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the interactions of comedy and drama within a group of significant and influential films released during 1990s. It discusses several contemporary British films, focusing upon the experiences of British-Asian and African-Caribbean characters and their efforts to feel 'at home' in Western and British society. The book explores the emergence of romantic comedy as a popular genre in 1990s British cinema, and includes case studies of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually. It investigates the ways in which humour is deployed for dramatic and emotional effect in the context of scenarios dealing with such seemingly non-comic subjects as mass unemployment, failed or uneasy relationships, bitter family disputes, or instances of racial tension and conflict in British society.
This chapter presents the case studies of Brassed Off and The Full Monty. It explores some of the important critical and commercial issues raised by the observations of Mark Herman and Simon Beaufoy, in relation to the willingness of both films to create humorous and comically absurd moments in each film. In an essay entitled 'The Social Art Cinema: a Moment in the History of British Film and Television Culture', Christopher Williams concluded that British cinema's interest in notions of community and society constitutes what our national cinema 'has been and is good at doing'. Two seminal comedy-dramas, The Man in the White Suit and I'm All Right Jack were also influential for the ways in which they probed the 'state of the nation' by satirising relationships between management and labour in British society at the beginning and end of the 1950s.
This chapter examines a particular group of British films produced during the 1990s which sought to explore issues of national, cultural and ethnic identity in the form of narratives combining comic and dramatic plot developments, incidents and perspectives. Such films as Leon the Pig Farmer, Wild West, Bhaji on the Beach, Secrets & Lies, My Son the Fanatic, and East is East constituted a vital and innovative sub-genre within 1990s British film culture. The chapter shows how these particular 1990s films attempt to explore themes of social, cultural and ethnic identity by drawing upon a range of comic forms, styles and approaches. It considers the legacy of certain British comic treatments of race relations and ethnic representations in film and television, as established in 1960s and 1970s. The chapter discusses the movement which took place in the 1980s from situation-comedy-type treatments of such themes towards a more serious drama-oriented approach.
This chapter explores the genre of romantic comedy in relation to British cinema, with particular regard to the emergence of this particular generic form as a high-profile feature of British film production during the 1990s. It considers some of the key critical issues at stake when the romantic and comedic aspects of romantic comedies are filtered through a specifically 'British' aesthetic and cultural perspective. The chapter examines the two most influential films within this particular cycle of British films: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999). It concludes with a discussion of Love Actually, considering the film in terms of its status as a kind of 'ultimate' Richard Curtis/Hugh Grant British romantic comedy, and a film which explores male-female interactions within a London setting, and in the context of Britain's political and social relationships with Europe and America.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the key concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book examines the significant and innovative role played by three distinctive generic forms in British cinema during the decade of the 1990s. It focuses on the three generic strands that share a common interest in issues of identity, and a person's relationship to his or her family, place of residence and position in society, and are also linked by their shared tendency to seek out instances of humour, farce and irony in the various narrative scenarios as they unfold. The book demonstrates that important links can be made between films produced within very distinct periods of British film history. It also demonstrates that British cinema has often returned to concerns around issues of community, and cultural, sexual and national identity, and treated these subjects in imaginative and thoughtful ways.
Bridget Jones’s journey from the ‘edge of reason’ to marriage and motherhood
Chapter 3 focuses on Bridget Jones’s ongoing search for ‘Mr Right’ as examined in three films released between 2001 and 2016: Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Bridget Jones’s Baby. This series of romantic comedies reveal how Bridget tries to find a sense of direction and meaning in her romantic/sexual life and careers in publishing and television. Bridget has uneasy relationships with serious (but trustworthy) Mark Darcy, charming (but unreliable) Daniel Cleaver and sincere (but slightly underwhelming) Jack Quant. The films therefore explore from a woman’s point of view how complicated and sometimes farcical a woman’s search for a suitable and satisfying partner might turn out to be. The movies engage with important issues around selfhood, dating conventions and achieving sexual fulfilment and job satisfaction in the modern age. The varied narrative strategies deployed in the films also find ways of alluding to dictatorships, creativity and criticism in British culture, same sex relationships and international diplomacy from comic perspectives. The impressive international success of the trilogy demonstrates that British singleton Bridget’s (mis)adventures (as enacted, somewhat ironically, by American star Renée Zellweger) have made an emotional connection with audiences around the world, making them fascinating and worthy subjects for sustained critical analysis and exploration.
Writers in British society and tales of their private lives and personal affairs
Chapter 2 explores the cycle of British biographical pictures from the 2000s which examined the creative writing lives and personal relationships of a varied set of authors By focusing on three films centring on the extreme (but not necessarily exceptional) situations experienced by Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) and Iris Murdoch (1919–1999), I will consider how these authors are depicted living a life in exile after imprisonment for homosexual offences; seeking to be creative while coping with a partner’s adulterous behaviour and facing losing their memory and powers of reason after being struck down by a terrible illness (Alzheimer’s disease). The films offer powerful portrayals of individuals seeking love, sexual fulfilment and success in their chosen careers over a period in British social history spanning the 1890s to the 1990s, while having to deal with situations which lead to despair, debilitation and eventually death.