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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews - MICHAEL DWYER

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.

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