Day-Lewis Cleans Up
Ali Hussein (Roshan Seth) was once a big journalist in Pakistan but in Britain he is nothing other than an alcoholic. That makes him very different to his brother Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey) and business partner Salim (Derrick Branche) who various legal and illegal enterprises are making money and living comfortably. To try and make things better for Ali he gives his son Omar (Gordon Warnecke) various jobs doing manual labour with Omar eventually convincing him to let him run their run down laundrette. With the help of his close friend Johnny (Daniel Day-Lewis) they set about turning the place around and using it as a base for their own money making enterprises but faces several problems on the way especially when it comes to racism.
I remember when "My Beautiful Laundrette" came out because so many people spoke about what a powerful and realistic movie it was, dealing with subjects of race and homosexuality which were not common place in British cinema. The thing is that I was only just turning 13 back in 1985 and in truth it has taken me 30+ years to get around to watching it. And whilst "My Beautiful Laundrette" is still an entertaining and fascinating movie to be honest it doesn't have the same effect when watched now.
Now "My Beautiful Laundrette" could is an observation of culture, generations and the divides. As such we see how whilst there are those who are racist towards Omar we also see those who dislike Johnny. We also see the difficulties when it comes to family expectations when two men are secretly in love which of course cause conflict between lovers. And then we get a coating of capitalism as for Omar he wants to make it rich. Even now all these things come across in a fascinating way but the power of them now at times feels forced especially when it comes to the movies quirky nature of this beautiful laundrette.
Despite not being the powerful movie which others experienced when they watched it back in the 80s it certainly features two very good performances with Daniel Day-Lewis and Gordon Warnecke working well together and bringing out their characters desires and conflict. What is amazing is for me the character of Johnny is not overly written, we don't know what motivates him or much about his background yet it is easy to understand him.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "My Beautiful Laundrette" didn't impress me in the way it did audiences back in the 80s I can appreciate why many were impressed by it and especially the performance of Daniel Day-Lewis.