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on 29 August 2011
There a moment towards the end of the movie where the camera focuses on James Penfield (Jonathan Pryce) as Margaret Thatcher says something like "when the young people of today are like this, we have no reason to worry about tomorrow". This is Author's Message time, as we are supposed to heartily dislike Penfield at that point. Except they got the wrong Bad Guys. It wasn't social climbers like Penfield, it was the more entitled and amoral Hancock (Tim Curry) and Susan Barrington (Charlie Dore) who turned out to be the Bad Guys. The story is about the falsification, or at the least politicised interpretation, of history, and the ease with which the past can be faked. "The Ploughman's Lunch" of the title turns out not to be a real traditional bread-and-cheese lunch, but a marketing gimmick from the mid-Sixties. No wonder the Left in Britain were routed so easily by Thatcher: it saw her, but as a politician, not as someone with her thumb firmly on the pulse of the zietgiest.

Anyway, that aside, this movie is How It Was. They get just enough of the details right. The Brixton address for James Penfield (today it would be Shoreditch); live footage from that post-Falklands Conservative Party conference; the tiny house his parents live in; his scruffy flat, Susan's smarter, larger flat, and the rambling country house her mother lives in. The way Susan cuts Penfield's evening at her place short by calling a taxi without telling him; and I'm going to assume the BBC newsroom is accurate. The way that people thought that a little tinge of cynicism and self-pity was a turn-on, and a rather neat scene where Penfield visits a university to interview a lecturer: the slot machines are on the ground floor, while the lecture theatre is in the basement, along what looks like an utility corridor. The film makes Britain feels... strange and distant.

As ever, the central character is a contradiction: for someone who is supposed to be a social climber, Penfield lacks the required charm and easy insincerity, we don't dislike him because he's an historical revisionist, but because he's socially inept and a touch callous. However, Pryce makes his character work.

And this movie has one of my favourite lines, from the Frank Finley character, who directs TV commercials: "I make so much money at what I do, I can't even begin to justify it".

If you get this movie, get Close My Eyes, with Saskia Reeves, Clive Owen and Alan Rickman, as well. The two films frame the Eighties and capture it at the start and end perfectly.
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on 12 April 2012
This is a movie about manipulation. Historians manipulating "The Past", the media manipulating "The Present", so-called independent individuals being manipulated by their peers. Thatcher (in)famously quipped that there was no such thing as society. She obviously never encountered the upper class types in this movie! Tim Curry, for one, is a revelation. A deb's delight with a seedy undercurrent. You can just imagine him as a backseat groper in a taxi!

Jonathan Pryce is also excellent as an empty shell of a man. A hollow look and dead eyes. A would-be Yuppie who is scorned by the achingly trendy Sloan Rangers he so longs to emulate. In some respects, he reminds me of Charlie Sheen's character in "Wall Street".

A very interesting "lost" movie from the 1980s.
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on 14 May 2013
A very well directed and well acted film I really enjoyed it, however I believe this is a film that requires more than one viewing to understand it's various layers.
I have it in my collection now and plan to watch it a few more times in order to understand the whole story.
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on 8 April 2013
Classic British film, set during the heydey of Thatcherism (boo!)

Grab it before it goes out of print, as even though it stars the actor from Brazil, the picture is sadly not that well known today.
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on 15 February 2016
Clever story showing how corrupt society has become through the dubious behaviour of an unappealing group of journalists, historians and advertising executives.
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on 16 April 2016
A must see movie for anyone interested in the 1980's and the morality of the times. One of the greatest modern British films.
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on 11 April 2015
5* What else to say?
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on 22 June 2006
Jonathon Pryce is excellent as this reporter. Includes live footage of Conservative party conference in Brighton.
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on 10 October 2014
Very dated
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