Magazine article The Spectator

All's Well That Ends Well

Magazine article The Spectator

All's Well That Ends Well

Article excerpt

Happy, Texas

(12, selected cinemas)

Alice et Martin

(15, selected cinemas)

English actors used to get parts in Hollywood films by playing English. That was the point of them. Directors looking for a man to play the Irish priest or an American gangster didn't audition David Niven. How different it is now, with English actors forming a queue to demonstrate their mastery of a foreign accent.

Hard on the heels of Emma Thompson in Primary Colors and Helena Bonham Carter in Fight Club comes Jeremy Northam. The middle-class gentleman of An Ideal Husband and The Winslow Boy transforms himself in Happy, Texas into an East Coast con man marooned in the Lone Star state. His accent is good and he looks as handsome as ever, but it's hard to banish the thought that a shave and hair cut would return him to his natural home in Edwardian England.

It's a cheerful and modest film - much praised at the Sundance Film Festival -- that threatens to flag halfway through its 100 minutes but which recovers to canter home, dispensing warm jokes and tying up ends in the neat manner of all romantic comedy. I believe the term is 'heartwarming'.

Northam is half of that traditional cinematic double act, a pair on the run in need of a disguise. Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis became women in Some Like It Hot; this being a more inclusive age, Northam and his co-star Steve Zahn play gay. As Zahn's character Wayne Wayne Wayne, Jr tells Northam, 'It might not be hard for you, Rock Hudson, but I've got heterosexuality written all over me.'

They are an ill-matched pair - is there any other kind in film comedy? - who have escaped from a prison chain gang and hide out in a small town, an experience that is to change them and the locals - sound familiar?

Having read too often that political correctness has taken over America, it is mildly liberating to hear jokes based on homosexual stereotypes. 'Not how I pictured him at all,' says a woman, surprised by Northam's lack of limpwristedness: 'They're crafty that way,' says the sheriff, the rheumy-eyed William H. Macy, late of Fargo and Pleasantville.

At first it seemed surprising that pink power in Hollywood should let Mark Illsley, director, co-producer and co-writer, get away with the suggestion that there is something strange about gay couples, never mind that they typically work at producing beauty pageants. But in fact it is properly politically correct. They may lynch homosexuals in real redneck land, but here they all rub along fine. Happy, Texas, happy ending. …

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