Secrets and lies
SPARKLE Directed by Tom Hunsinger, Neil Hunter. Starring Stockard Channing, Bob Hoskins, Lesley Manville, Shaun Evans, Amanda Ryan Club, IFI, Dublin, 98 min
IN THE mid-1990s, Tom Hunsinger, a Texan working in London, collaborated with English writer Neil Hunter to script and co-direct Boyfriends, a comedy described in one review as “a gay La Règle du Jeu on a ha’penny budget”. Their next venture, Lawless Heart (2001), skilfully intersected three stories about the death of a restaurateur, and was more widely admired.
Hunsinger and Hunter construct another intricately shaped emotional tapestry in Sparkle, a thoughtful and appealing picture of life, love and relationships. As with their earlier films, this serious comedy was developed through an improvisational process that proved fruitful.
Sparkle opens with a chance encounter between shy, lonely bachelor Vince (Bob Hoskins) and mother and son Jill and Sam Sparks (Lesley Manville and Shaun Evans), which prompts the Sparks to move from Liverpool to London and into the basement flat of Vince’s home. The change of scene sparks their ambitions, as Jill seeks work as a cabaret singer while Sam is hired as the personal assistant to a successful public relations magnate (Stockard Channing).
A charming opportunist, Sam becomes sexually involved with his employer and then falls for a younger woman (Amanda Ryan) closer to his own age. There is more to these characters than meets the eye, and several secrets and lies – and twists of fate – are revealed with subtle skill.
The consequences are engagingly observed in this bittersweet tale that consistently rings true. The actors interact with panache, and Manville demonstrates her singing talent as she performs hits by Dusty Springfield, Culture Club and the Korgis that reflect on the story.