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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 3 January 2003
An absolute delight, with excellent acting and great production values. Rachael Stirling is utterly endearing and hard to forget, Keeley Hawes is simply delicious, and the rest of the cast are equally good. As a love story, Tipping the Velvet works perfectly - the romantic buildup and sex scenes are gorgeous and entirely believable, especially for a gay or lesbian audience. But there is so much more to be enjoyed - the vivid evocation of provincial music halls and oyster parlours, Kentish seaside and family life, and the world of Victorian London, with all its quirky contradictions and seamy undercurrents. There is also a wonderful depth of characterisation, and an avoidance of cliche, which is perhaps best illustrated by Sarah Waters' own subtle gender politics: the male characters are benign, often kind, and never vilified, while the real wielders of emotional power and pain are the lesbian characters themselves. There's a great deal here to discuss, if you ever happen to tire of gazing happily at the screen. Buy it, you won't regret it!
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on 4 May 2005
I was sceptical when this first aired - the subject matter seemed too risque for mainstream TV to do anything other than skirt nervously around, the marketing too slanted towards a voyeuristic male audience. Two years on, I rented the DVD and was more than pleasantly surprised.
Andrews Davies' screenplay is excellent, sticking close to the novel while judiciously trimming the plot down to essentials. Together with some clever direction and editing, it intelligently explores the novel's interlinked themes of performance, display, gender and identity. The sound and visual effects of the music hall pursue Nan throughout her journey from innocence to experience. Drumrolls, cymbal clashes and fade-to-black 'spotlights' accompany pivotal moments in her life. A recurring motif of dressing in front of mirrors subtly underlines how Nan variously expresses, hides and reinvents herself - sexually, physically, emotionally - as she moves from oyster girl to male impersonator to kept woman to socialist campaigner. At times, the series comes into its own beautifully, as with the intercut sequence of Nan and Kitty rehearsing their act together.
Surprisingly, too, none of the novel's bawdiness is lost - Nan's story is here in all its joys, pains and dildos - but again the production proves itself worthy. The sex scenes are explicit - but rather than just providing titillation, they always further the themes and character development.
The acting is a little uneven - certain cast members play it straighter than others (excuse the pun) - but the leads all do well with the material. Florence is less forthright and assured than in the book, but Jodhi May gives her grace and sweetness enough to make us root for her at the end. The only problem - to this reviewer - lies in Kitty, Nan's first love. The script misses a trick when it skips the novel's pivotal moment for her character (her crisis after a performance is interrupted by hecklers accusing the pair of being lesbians). Where she could have presented yet another facet of the theme of appearance and identity - her rushed, concealing marriage prompted by paranoia that exposure as a lesbian will blight her career and cost her the public adulation she craves - instead she emerges simply as a cliched, confused bisexual, unable to choose between Nan and Walter until it is too late.
On the whole, though, this is an brave and admirable adaptation that captures the essence of the novel and is highly entertaining in its own right.
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VINE VOICEon 30 March 2005
I didn't get the chance to watch "Tipping the Velvet" when it was first screened by the BBC in 2002, and have only recently had the pleasure. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't such sumptuous sexual and gendered liberalness - thankfully, the BBC took the book (beautifully written and themed to the teeth) and gave it the scriptural freedom it needed to express itself properly.
The product is "Tipping the Velvet", an unashamed exploration of gender and lesbian sexuality in Victorian England that deliberately questions manhood and womanhood, and the space between the two. We follow the protagonist, Nan Astley, on a bildungsroman from innocence to experience, through love and betrayal, from cross-dressing entertainment halls to dildo-wielding dominatrixes to proto-socialist paradise. If it sounds at all crude, it isn't - "Tipping the Velvet" *is* explicit, but the focus of the adaptation is not Nan's sexual initiations but her emotional trials. Her sexual explorations are part and parcel of this, but at no point does it degenerate into gratuitous displays. On the contrary, the sex scenes are accomplished with a commendable grace and poise, removing the usual aura of sordidness that surrounds the portrayal of same-sex relationships. The themed imagery comes thick and fact - the title itself being a euphemism - and begs us to think about the implications of acting, queerness, femininity, moral norms and love.
Furthermore, the overall standard of production itself is high, while Andrew Davies' script is spot-on for tone and characterisation. A few anachronistic slips can be forgiven I think. :-)
Overall, excellent thought-provoking entertainment for people of all sexual persuasions.
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on 1 February 2015
really well made and well acted tipping the velvet is a bitter sweet story of a young girl discovering she has fallen in love with a another girl. it shows you that weather you are a man/women or two men or two women that the pain/joy are the same, it will make you laugh one minute and sad the next, the sex scenes are a little graphic but given the subject matter are relevant and tastefully done, it also shows you that some things never change were the rich live longer and get richer while the poor die young. you can find clips of this on you tube but need to watch it all to really understand the story. and is worth buying too add to your collections.
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on 8 November 2002
From start to finish,this is a wonderful adaption of Sarah Waters' novel of rags to riches,with love for good measure.A lesbian "Moll Flanders"!
Rachael Stirling is wonderful as Nan, a girl on the brink of womanhood discovering her true sexuality.Keeley Hawes turn in a brillaint performance as the male impersonator,Kitty,who becomes Nan's first love.
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on 19 February 2003
I watched this movie to see Keeley Hawes, who I thought was fantastic as Lizzy Hexam in Our Mutual friend, but I discovered Rachel Stirling! As an innocent girl on her journey of life, love and self awareness, she is at once beautiful, innocent and completely believable in this lovely, wonderfully acted story which, though classified as a lesbian film, goes way beyond mere sexuality and gender.
As usual, British filmmakers get it right with their casting, as even the smaller characters just fit. You'll recognize familiar faces, but you'll not be able to keep your eyes or heart off Stirling.
Go get this movie; you will have a new perspective on love, friendship and , well, maybe life in general.
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on 9 November 2002
What a refreshing change to see a drama involving lesbians in which the focus for the story is one of love and real life, rather than a sordid depiction of lesbians solely as sexual figures.
While watching Tipping the Velvet I found myself being drawn into the world of Nan (played perfectly by Rachael Stirling), and seeing her struggle to find her real self. I immediately grew fond of the character Nan, and found my empathy growing throughout. I laughed with her, rejoyced with her and cried with her.
The dynamics of the relationship between Nan and Kitty (played by Keeley Hawes) moved and excited me, and would strike a note in the heart of any viewer who has ever felt the excitement of being in love, or wishing for it.
Those viewers expecting scenes of a sexual nature will not be disappointed - but this production is not about sex, it is about love and real life.
I loved the period costumes, and the set. However, at points the camera shots and angles resembled a low budget version of a Baz Luhrmann production - in particular a repeated shot of a rather plastic looking rose.
Overall though I can not hesitate to tell you all to buy the DVD and read the book... This story does not only take you on an emotional journey of Nan's life, but will take you on a remarkable journey of your own.
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on 10 June 2003
I am so very glad I found this film. This is simply the best program I have ever seen!!!! I must say that British television is constantly amazing me. Rachael Sterling and Keeley Hawes are absolutely flawless in their portrayal as Nan and Kitty. Through the entire program you feel as if you were going through all the exciting and surprising events that Nan is experiencing. I recommend it to all kinds of people. Whether your a lesbian or not it is a wonderful story about love, betrayal and new beginnings. I am an American and I believe that England is absolutely #1 in creating outstanding programs!!!! THIS IS A MUST BUY!!!!!
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on 10 October 2006
What's good:

- The visuals. The colour, background, sights, sounds and (imagined) smells of Victorian London are just wonderful.

-Kitty Butler; what a beautiful woman Keely Hawes is. Perfect for Kitty, that sort-of upper class cockney accent and she looks flawless (and hot) dressed as a boy.

-The acting in general; well, you'd expect that of a BBC adaptation, wouldn't you? Look at it's history - Narnia, Moll Flanders, Tom Jones; the BBC has almost always been spot-on with its casting.

-The faithful adaptation of a wonderful book; unlike the frankly heretical adaptation of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe done recently (film, not original adaptation), the script is pretty muchg bang-on the book's, which is great, as it was the fact that the book was so well written that made me watch the adaptation.

What's bad:

- A personal thing, I know, but Rachel Sterling's voice drives me nuts. As do her cow-eyes at Kitty for half the story. That apart, she makes a great Nan King

- The sex. Well it was never going to be graphic, that would be unfaithful, but it turned Nan's first lesbian experience into something frankly comic, as though that were the only way they'd get it on TV. Which is nonsense - Moll Flanders, anyone? It's a truly dreadful depiction which could have been handled so much better.

This is generally a good adaptation, certainly watchable and highly enjoyable for Sterling giving a performance worthy of her namesake, and of course Anna Chancellor makes the most wonderful "older woman fantasy type" in her role as Diana Lethaby.

Not a patch on the book, and disappointing in places, but well worth the watch. Just not with your Grandma, eh?
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on 12 November 2002
A fantastic and accurate production of the book by Sarah Waters.
Rachel Stirling and Keeley Hawes play the parts of Nan and Kitty brilliantly.
For once its refreshing to watch a TV dramatisation that reflects the book and not the directors taste!If you enjoyed the book you will most definitely love this!
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