Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Grant’

A Very British Scandal

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 21st May, 2018

A Very British ScandalI watched the first episode of Stephen Frears’ three-part TV bio-pic about the Thorpe Affair, A Very British Scandal, with a degree of trepidation. Despite the director’s esteemed back catalogue and the stellar cast, could it be anything else but a travesty of the truth? I knew Jeremy Thorpe from the time he came to speak at the Oxford University Liberal Club (of which I was then Secretary) in about 1970 right up until his death in 2014, so well over 40 years, and like most of his numerous friends I was very fond of him. He was one of the most charismatic politicians I have ever encountered — witty, charming and urbane to such a degree that most of us failed to perceive a darker side to his character. Right to the end, he denied having plotted Norman Scott’s murder, and indeed a court found him not guilty of that charge. So I think he would have been shocked — probably to the point of litigation, for which he did have a bent — by the dramatic assertion at the end of episode 1 of A Very British Scandal that he effectively commissioned Peter Bessell to have Norman bumped off. Bessell was of course an extremely dodgy character himself (beautifully played by Alex Jennings, very much as I remember Bessell), who moved to America and was an unreliable witness, to put it mildly. I never encountered Norman Joliffe/Scott, who was much less attractive in real life than the super-talented and winsome Ben Whishaw, but Whishaw absolutely nails the element of helplessness about Norman which Jeremy did find immensely appealing, sexually stimulating even, until things started to turn terribly sour. So what about Hugh Grant as Jeremy? He accurately mimics some of Thorpe’s mannerisms, though the voice wasn’t quite that Edward-Fox-plummy, and naturally the Edwardian-style clothes that Jeremy favoured are down to a T. But I think the audience needed to see more of Thorpe’s undeniable charm and splendidly theatrical showmanship before the storm clouds gathered and the murder plot was allegedly hatched. Frears shows he is still very much the master of his art. Indeed, as a TV mini-series this promises to be outstanding entertainment. But is it really true or fair? And will it be that it manages in later episodes to show why talented and successful people like Jeremy Thorpe (or, indeed, at an intellectually and creatively higher level, Oscar Wilde) dice with danger for the thrill of the risk and a fatal curiosity about what it would be like to be found out?

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Paddington 2 *****

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 25th November, 2017

Paddington 2I am usually wary of films with the number “2” in their title, as sequels rarely live up to brilliant originals. But Paddington 2 will not disappoint those who loved its predecessor. Paddington Bear is neither as twee as Disney’s Winnie the Pooh nor as gross as Ted (especially in Ted 2). Instead, he is endearingly clumsy and charmingly naive, so that audiences of any age will be rooting for him as he faces new and dangerous challenges. Not least of these are the machinations of the fiendish and self-obsessed former star of the stage, Phoenix Buchanan, now reduced to doing dog food commercials, a la Clement Freud. Buchanan is played with relish by Hugh Grant, devious and smarmy to the nth degree and as fated for failure as any pantomime villain. Hugh Bonneville as Mr Brown is the somewhat clueless paterfamilias in a very British household whose other members, including the children, fortunately have much more nous. There’s a nice little cameo by Joanna Lumley, effectively sending up herself, and a number of cinematographic references that will amuse genuine film buffs, from a scene that could be straight out of Murder on the Orient Express to Paddington running across train carriage roofs like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. The chase scenes are fast paced, but some of the most effective comedy is often from gags in which Paddington is on his own, for example pretending to be a rubbish bin in Paddington Station or catastrophically attempting to work as a window-cleaner. It is all jolly fun, with Ben Whishaw giving Paddington an earnest, innocant little voice that matches his moral propriety. Perfect stuff in the run-up to Christmas, and I can’t help feeling that the recently-deceased creator of the Paddington books, Michael Bond, would have loved it.

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Nick Clegg’s Equal Marriage Celebration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 11th September, 2013

Admiralty HouseNick Clegg LGBTSo quickly has public opinion moved that it seems almost unbelievable that the last Labour government shied away from upgrading same-sex civil partnerships to ‘marriage’ because of the fear of a backlash (including from some of their MPs). But it is a tribute to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (strongly and admirably supported by PM David Cameron) that he oversaw the relatively smooth transition into law of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act this summer. In an appropriately informal speech at a reception in Admiralty House, Westminster, this evening, he paid just tribute to Lynne Featherstone as the then Equalities Minister (subsequently replaced by Jo Swinson) and Baroness (Liz) Barker, who made a moving and heartfelt personal act of testimony in a speech in the House of Lords. As a Quaker (and therefore part of a religious group which has recognised the validity of loving same-sex relationships for several decades) I have been saddened by how far behind most of the mainstream Churches are on this. It was also heartening that some of the supportive luvvies, including my old friend Stephen Fry and Hugh Grant, turned out tonight, as did hardcore campaigners such as the truly noble Peter Tatchell (who has been a beacon for the LGBT+ community in Russia). Of course there was a good sprinkling of LibDem MPs and Lords, but this was not an occasion for narrow party politics. We were one big happy group, straight, gay and bi/trans +, celebrating the fact that we had won, and in doing so had proved what an open and tolerant society Britain has become, even if a minority still can’t quite get their heads around it.


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Nick Clegg’s Equal Marriage Celebration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 12th September, 2012

The right-wing media and a few Tory rent-a-gobs such as Peter Bone, MP, have got themselves into quite a lather over the past 24 hours because of Nick Clegg’s alleged description of opponents to Equal Marriage as ‘bigots’. The fact that he actually did not use that term (it was in an unfortunately unverified pre-release email, until spotted and removed) and indeed would never have used that term in this context has not stopped the bile from pouring out from those self-appointed defenders of the ‘sanctity’ of marriage. The hint of scandal — or if not scandal, gaffe — meant there were TV cameras outside 1 Carlton Terrace when guests turned up for a reception last night to celebrate the Equal Civil Marriage Consultation. Inside the building the paparazzi naturally gravitated towards the luvvies, including Hugh Grant, Stephen Fry, Simon Callow and Derren Brown, as well as to a positive conclave of bishops in purple, some from churches I had never heard of. But the majority of those present were the old troupers of the LGBT rights movement, such as Peter Tatchell, and an astonishing number of LGBT+ Liberal Democrat councillors and MPs. Nick Clegg spoke well, paying fitting tribute to Lynne Featherstone (also present), as the consultation — which will, one hopes, lead to legislation, though one must not prejudice its outcome — was her baby until she was shifted sideways to DFID in the recent government reshuffle. Jo Swinson is taking her place as a Minister of State for Equalities, which is a welcome addition to the LibDem ministerial team.

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