The Crying Game (1992)

Ok, champs now here’s the deal. My last review… which ironically was also my first review (mind officially blown) I went out of my way to not provide any spoilers because I wanted you to watch the film yourself and rejoice. That may have been a redundant move because I’m just a random chick with internet access so why would you do what I say? I even struggle to do what I say most of the time. Seriously, it’s annoying.

Me: Hey, it would be really beneficial to the progression on my life if I did this specific thing.

Also Me: Yeah, it would but what about if I… didn’t?

Me: Fuck! You got me there! 

The thing is, the film I have chosen to talk about next only really interest me because of the twist, meaning I don’t think I’d get any enjoyment from writing about it if I just neglected it. And since I satisfying my own wants is a major priority in my life, I’m just going to go for it. Get ready for a swarm of spoilers! You have been warned!

The Crying Game opens up to a fairground in Belfast where the IRA plans to ambush a British soldier called Jody , played by Forest Whitaker with a very poor English accent. They find a shed and plan to hold him hostage in there until the British Army release IRA prisoners, promising that if they don’t they will kill Jody. But one IRA volunteer named Fergus, played by Stephen Rea, makes the mistake of befriending Jody because that’s a great idea! Nothing bad can come from that. Oh, except Fergus now has to shoot him. God dammit, didn’t see that coming! If only there was some warning or mission objective to have prevented this awkwardness. Jody’s final wish is for Fergus to go back to London and take care of his girlfriend, Dil, after he’s fed the worms. Bur plot twist (oh, we’re in for a fair few of these bad boys) Fergus never actually gets to kill Jody. Jody runs away and Fergus chases him for a bit and then decides to let him go onto his freedom so that he can reacquaint himself with the love of his life and live happily until the end of his days.

Then Jody gets run over by a tank.

Fergus himself then runs away, cuts his hair, calls himself Jimmy, claims to be Scottish despite never getting rid of his Irish accent, and goes to keep his promise to Jody and look after Dil. They are both immediately attracted to each other and it doesn’t take long for a relationship to blossom. On their fourth encounter things really start to get saucy; proper Reggae Reggae! Fergus kisses Dil’s cheek, then her neck, pulling off her robe as he goes down her long slender bod…  OH MY GOD she’s a man!

But now not only does he have to deal with this sudden turn of events and the confusing emotions accompanying them, the IRA group that he ran away from located him and threaten to hurt Dil if he doesn’t continue to work for them. And the moral of this story is: Never befriend Forest Whitaker!

The film is based on the classic Irish story called ‘A Guest of the Nation’ by Frank O’Connor, where IRA men from the 1920’s become friends with the man they have to kill. I’ve never read it but you can if you want. I’ll probably pick it up later.

A Guest of the Nation

I had a weird little obsession with Stephen Rea at the time, so that’s what prompted me to watch this film in the first place. I think his accent played a large part in it because it a fact that Irish is the sexiest accent across the globe. He uses his own accent in the film, the one that Dil thinks is Scottish to which Fergus is like “Yep. Scottish. Totes McMe.” He was born in Belfast and uses his real accent throughout the film– but the real question is whether that was his real hair? Did he actually cut it for the role? Was it just a Hobbit wig? Will we ever know? Or care?

Why do people cut their hair when they’re trying to disguise themselves. You’re showing more of your face that way. Idiot. Although, in his defence, Stephen does have a rather good face. It’s just really gentle and sweet. The whole guy is, really. I’ll tell you something now; if he wanted to be my friend, I’d let him. And because he doesn’t actually smile a lot during the film it makes the times when he does smile absolutely charming and much more likeable. But this could also act as an insight to the vulnerability of his character; the impression that he is unsure of himself and is easily bullied into things.

“Not much use, are you, Fergus?” He soldier asks him.
“Me? No. I’m not good for much.”

He is too kind to be a terrorist so I can only assume that he was bullied into volunteering. He became a murderer by mistake, and became gay on accident. Nothing is in his control.

A Film4 review says that “Fergus is not a tragic hero whose essential goodness leads him to err”. It’s an interesting point but I don’t completely agree with it. True, the majority of the film consists of Fergus constantly following the wishes of other people blindly (even when he decides that he doesn’t want to continue his relationship with Dil, she still manages to persuade him to kiss and go out with her again. We get the impression that he doesn’t even bother resisting. Although, this could be because that his feelings for her are too strong, and not that his self esteem is too weak).

However, when Dil kills Miranda Richardson’s character out of self defence and revenge, Fergus tells Dil to go to the pub while he waits in the flat, wiping Dil’s fingerprints off the gun and replacing it with his own. He does 6 years in prison to protect Dil. He’s not a tragic hero in the sense of personal downfall, but he did suffer because of his kindness and was rewarded with Dil’s love. I was confused because when Dil asks why he did it he says “Well, as a man once said, it’s in my nature.” So, did he really do it for love or just because he was a good guy? But I think that the alternate ending confirms that his love was genuine when he comes back to visit her, and in the comments it’s says that the scene is supposed to end with Fergus and Dil leaving the hairdressers, holding hands and making holiday plans. The beginning of the film foreshadows this where Jody needs the toilet but Fergus won’t untie his hands so he has to whip Jody’s penis in and out again.  Fergus is really reluctant to put it back in and only does so when Jody exclaims “It’s only a piece of meat!” That’s why Fergus allows himself to have feelings for Dil despite her having a penis because “It’s only a piece of meat”.

Another thing that confirmed it for me was the use of the closing song “Stand By Your Man” by Lyle Lovett.

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man
But you’ll have bad times and he’ll have good times
Doing things that you don’t understand

But if you love him, you’ll forgive him
Even though he’s hard to understand
And if you love him, oh be proud of him
‘Cos after all he’s just a man

Stand by your man
Give him two arms to cling to
And something warm to come to
When nights are cold and lonely

Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can
Stand by your man

Stand by your man
And show the world you love him
Keep giving all the love you can

Stand by your man.”

This song could be sung from both Fergus and Dil’s point of view. “But if you love him, you’ll forgive him” that could be Dil forgiving Fergus for lying to her about his identity and being involved with Jody’s death. “And if you love him, oh be proud of him/’Cos after all he’s just a man” And that could be Fergus overcoming Dil’s biology and loving her. So what if she was originally a man? She’s a woman now, and a hot one at that!

When Fergus discovers that Dil is biologically a man, he runs to the toilet to throw up. I physically laughed out loud that this cartoon reaction because it’s absolutely ridiculous! I do not believe that anyone actually react like that. I have trouble believing that a homophobe would react like that! This might have something to do with the time that I live in, what with the increase of homosexuality we are exposed to via the media, and even how male fashion has become much more feminine over the years. It could be argued that Fergus’s over the top reaction represents the Catholic ideology of gender and sexuality; that homosexuality is a sin and transexuality is a mutilation of God’s design.

Neil Jordon first met model, Jaye Davidson, at a party where he told Jordon that he often got confused for a girl, and that was when Jordon asked Davidson to play the part of Dil. I can see why but, unfortunately, I already knew what the plot was because they tell you in ‘Shallow Hal’ so I was robbed of that ‘Oh!’ moment and was instead left with the anticipation of how/when they were going to reveal the big reveal. I watched the film several times with several different people who didn’t know the twist – none of them let out a horrified gasp or left their mouths hanging in utter disbelief. Apart from an eyebrow raise or an exhale of a giggle, nobody was fazed at all. Again, I think this has something to do with the times that we’re living in. In one of its earlier screenings the audience gasped and muttered amongst themselves for the next ten minutes, making them lose track of the story. I think the shock came from the fact that Jaye Davidson is such a convincing woman, a manly woman, perhaps, but a woman none the less. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for his acting. I’m not saying he’s a bad actor, but if I never saw anything else he was in I wouldn’t feel like I was missing out. Soz meht.

The film doesn’t glorify homosexuality. Fergus never has a moment of clarity where he suddenly discovers his true self. He remains all the way through the film a heterosexual male that is repulsed by the idea of a sexual relationship with Dil. This is why I think it’s the most realistic gay film I have seen because the relationship isn’t anywhere close to being perfect. (Then again I’m not a gay man, so I wouldn’t really know what a realistic gay film is). When he discovers the truth about Dil, Fergus insists that she stop calling him pet names (although, after a while his “Don’t call me that.” Seem to become more playful). And yet it is only the homoerotic relationships that are centred around genuine love. The only truly heterosexual relationships are the ones that Jody and Fergus share with Jude (Miranda Richardson) and they are hardly idealistic – the former was a con to capture a prisoner, the latter was just sex talk.

Fergus and Jody both have relationships with the same two women: they both lust after Jude, and they both fall in love with Dil – but this is the only thing they have in common (apart from the enjoyment of each other’s company).  Everything about them is a contridiction (black/white, English/Irish, Nigger/Paddy) and this is symbolic of Western society’s binary views on everything, that men are men and women are women. A 1992 review of ‘The Crying Game’ from the 1994 Variety Movie Guide describes Stephen Rea (Jordon’s stalwart) as “intriguingly handsome-homely, decisive-passive, gentle-violent”. Even the DVD cover is in black and white.

It was nominated for many Oscar’s such as Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and actually won an Oscar for Original Screenplay. Despite its lukewarm response in the UK, it was a huge success, earning $62,000,000 in the box office. However, it remains the UK’s #1 Non-US Video Rental Title in 1992, placing 22nd on the chart. My personal opinion is that, while the acting may not be completely on point all the time, I ruddy well enjoy it. I’ve seen it multiple time and I’ll see it multiple times more.

And in the words of a completely different Forrest:

Knights of the Round Frey-ble

The King had gone mad with power.

All across the kingdom people lived in fear of his next dastardly decree. First it was the imprisonment of every third bus driver each month. Then he demanded that everybody’s sofas should be relinquished unto him. He even made his servants bring things to him. Yes, he did – pinch yourself because this is real life. Actually forcing another human being to wait on him hand and foot. It’s not like this is what they were paid or kidnapped to do.

But his life long journey of corruptness had finally brought him to his destination: Insanity!

He commissioned the service of every tailor and seamstress in the Kingdom – exchanging their labour for their life – and demanded T-shirts to be sent to every individual in the land that bore his resemblance, and a red circle in the corner to represent the poppy he ironed every year because he was so cheap to buy a new one. (Even in fantasy you can’t escape the horrors of war).

Accompanying the shirt was this note:

Dear Lowly Peasant Folk, 
I sincerely hope that you enjoy the gift that I have had given you.
I made the order of 20,000 of these bad boys two days ago. 
It’s amazing how persistent workers can be if you give them food;
children are remarkable creatures.
I also hope to find you wearing the shirt as it would be of great
pleasure to me. But please don’t feel that you have to wear the shirt
just to keep your King happy. I am an easy going man and understand
that individuality is important in society.
However, taking part is also something I stand by. So, if you do 
find yourself not in the festive mind frame, your person is required
at the front gates where a white hot poker will be inserted 
your rear end.
Wishing You All The Best,
Your Majesty
Kiss
Only one piece of photographic evidence remained from that wicked time and here it is. Proof that the King is not a man of his word, and that it wasn’t just the rebels that felt the burn.

Oh, What A Night!

Let me explain you a thing.

I have lived a life that just overlaps the course of two decades. And during that time I have felt things that, at the time, I didn’t think was possible to feel. Oh sure, I read about these feelings, seen them on the big screen, or just witnessed them in my general area. By being an interested observer I was able to come to an understanding of what they may feel like. But no matter how hard you look, or how long for, nothing really prepares you for your own emotional ignition.

I’m talking, of course, about my hate of maths.

There isn’t a moment in my adolescent life that wasn’t dominated by putrid loathing of numbers. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have been conditioned. The sight of numbers make me sick, graphs make me gag, charts make me sweat, and diagrams defecate; and I’m sure the feeling’s mutual. I was never a deeply religious person, but there was no doubt that each lesson sent deeper into Hell. And then when my back is turned they throw a couple of letters in there! English Language, why would you do this to me? I thought we were friends? For years I have devoted myself to you,  I loved and trusted you and this is how you repay me? By letting your luscious letter mix with those ruffians! I have been hurt! And yet I can’t seem to walk away. Oh English Language, you little minx – I could never hate you, with your capital letters and …puncutation.

Maths can kiss my sweaty balls, though.

One day in school, presumably a weekday, we had a test. A special test. A test with a prize. The prize being a bump up to the next highest Maths class. I was desperate for this to happen because I actually had friends in the next class up, so in a musical montage not too disimilar from ‘Rocky’ I buckled down to some hard core revision. It was painful but somehow I had managed to overcome past experience and achieve success. Later that week I was sat at a table with my friends, and later that month I was sat at a computer with no intention of doing my homework.

My mindless surfing led me blindly to Youtube, where I watched an entire series of a sitcom I had never heard of before that day. The show was called ‘Extras’. Being a massive Harry Potter fan (or ‘Pothead’) I watched the first episode because of Daniel Radcliffe – I watched the other five for Stephen Merchant. You know Stephen Merchant. Of course you do! Tall, blonde, slim, glasses, sounds a bit like a pirate?

 

                                                                       This guy!

I had to do a double take the first time I saw him because he looked uncannily like my teacher (I wrote sister by mistake then and made myself laugh). The longer I watched the show the more I was hoping Stephen would pop up so I could admire the resemblance, then it became admiration for the man alone, and soon enough it was love. Not only was he funny, interesting and handsome – he wasn’t even slightly interested in Maths! I would go on to explain in detail about my obsessive infatuation with this Bristolian but I don’t think I have time to write a novel, so I’ll just simply say I was smitten. I watched all of his films and shows up until that point, read all his articles online, followed him on Twitter. Once I stopped salivating and was able to construct comprehensible sentences, I decided to write him a letter. It wasn’t very long – only about ten pages. I read on the internet that if I was hoping for a reply then I should expect it’s arrival in three months.

 

                                            Twenty-nine days later I got this in the post.

My Mum knew nothing about the affairs of my heart, she didn’t even know who Stephen Merchant was.  So I understand why she was concerned about finding me crying hysterically in a bundle on the floor. Once I had told her what was what, she started to film me.

That footage is lost now, but my reaction to Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor was almost the same.

You can imagine what I was like when, two years after watching that first episode, I actually got to meet the guy!

I booked the tickets the second I found out. Nine months in advanced, five days after the announcement that he was debuting his first stand up tour. These were the worst seats in history and I do wish that I had glasses at the time – but I you have no idea how grateful I was that I managed to get any tickets at all! They were sold out within days. If I got pregnant there and then, my baby would be fully made when I got to meet him. I didn’t get pregnant though. It wouldn’t have been his so technically it would have been cheating.

Because this was my birthday event, Naomi (who came to the show with me) bought me a t-shirt with his face on so that I could wear it on the night. I hugged  myself the entire time I watched him prance about making hundreds upon hundreds of people laugh.

At the end of the show I waited behind the theatre for about fifteen minutes, cursing anyone that left the back exit for not being my hero (I mean talk about rude!). I have never consciously met anyone on speed, but since many people that night said that I was acting like someone who was, I don’t really need to now. Eventually, he emerged [from the shadows!!!]. But despite everything I found myself moving away from the man to the back of the crowd. Never in my life had a moment been so epic and I just found it sickeningly overwhelming. My sister thought this was madness and got right up behind me to push him forward. My intention was to calmly tell her that I didn’t mind waiting for a bit because I needed time to compose myself – instead it came out ” I’M WAITING MY TURN!” in a hysterical scream. Stephen looked at me with the deepest concern. It was really quite flattering.

Realising that I was far too intimidated to move, my sister pushed herself to the front. At this point I should mention that my sister is ten years older than myself and had made a particular effort to look good that night. Stephen’s face proved that her efforts had not gone unappreciated.

“Hiya.”

“Hi.”

“I was wondering…”

“Yeah!”

“…if you would have a photograph…”

“Yeah, yeah!”

“…with my sister?”

“Yea – oh?”

*Cue emotionally unstable teenager with equally unstable hair to match.*

“Oh…yeah.”

“Come on, Freya.”

I went to him, gibbering utter nonsense until I blurted out “DO YOU LIKE MY SHIRT!?” He replied “That’s mental.” and placed his hand on my back to pose for a picture.

He placed his hand on my back.

He put  his hand on my back.

He touched my back.

I don’t even touch my back!

Should I touch his back?

He’s really tall.

I might accidentally touch his ass.

Should I touch is ass?

While internally debating the important questions in life, the camera that was supposed to be taking our picture – wasn’t (I mean it wasn’t taking our picture, not that it wasn’t debating the important questions in life – although it wasn’t doing that either. Bit of a crap camera really. Well, what do you expect from a Canon). Stephen’s nose got itchy and it was halfway through a scratch when the camera went off, illuminating us with light. Again we posed, and again the camera refused to do its job. He said, jokingly, to Naomi “Have you ever taken a picture before?” to which I said “IT’S FUNNY BECAUSE SHE DOES PHOTOGRAPHY”

At the time it was hilarious.

Photos were eventually taken. There was no evidence whatsoever that his hand had been anywhere near his nose and he had a lovely smile upon his face. He looked gorgeous. I, however, was not so fortunate. The face I wore was of a girl who had no idea how to handle herself – a mixture of desperation, confusion, orgasm and fear. In my defence my hand was on his back.

I asked for a hug and he gave me one instead of the restraining order I had expected. I was one of the first people he spoke to and, because I stayed until everyone had gone, I was the last. He turned away and walked towards his car. I called his name, he looked at me once more.

“Sorry, I’m sorry. I just… I wanted to say this when I was calm. I absolutely love you and your work and you’re my fav… you’re not just my favourite person in the world – you’re my hero.”

With a fake upset voice he said “I’m not your favourite person in the world!?”

“Oh you are!” I gasped “But you’re just a whole different category!”

Which didn’t even make any bloody sense, but it didn’t matter. It doesn’t matter now because I made him smile! And you may think that I might have read too much into it but I am almost positive that it was a genuine smile. He got into his car and I waved him off as he drove away.

Five years have passed since that night and I still have not experienced anything like it. For more than  most of my teenage life Stephen Merchant has been making  me smile. To be able to return the favour was and ,will remain, for always, an honour.

And that’s why Maths is important!