Tipping the Velvet

Director: Geoffrey Sax

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Tipping the Velvet It's the "yellow ninties" of the Victorian era. Nan Astley (Rachael Stirling) has never felt that certain magic with Freddie (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Unexpectedly experiencing heart palpitations at a Music Hall theater when she sees a pretty male impersonator Kitty Butler (Keeley Hawes), she begins going to the theater every night, in the BBC production Tipping the Velvet (2002).

Nan becomes Kitty's dresser to be closer to her, but very quickly undergoes a transformation to the stage.

Billed as "Butler & King" they become a famous London stage phenomenon as Bill & his shy brother Bob. They're the toasts of London, gals who dress sexilly as lads. But of course no one knew they'd become lovers, & Kitty insisted they keep it all strictly secret.

Alas, a life packed with romantic comedy ends with an unpleasant surprise for Nan, thought it was a great six months.

Tipping the VelvetSo ends Part I of three. Part II opens with brokenhearted Nan alone in the world.

A woman alone is never really safe in London, so she begins to live cross-gendered, ostensibly for safety sake, though Victorian London was not a place where pretty boys on their own were much safer.

Escaping being nearly raped, our disguised "BJ" meets Diana Lethaby (Anna Chancellor), a lusty dominatrix.

Under Diana's tutelage she has soon become part of the dildo culture of underground role-playing dykes. Nan becomes the perfet obedient bottom, bought & paid for by Mistress Diana.

So ends Part II. In Part III, Nan will slowly begin to realize a life of non-stop excitement & eccentricity, without true love, is never going to be the end-all. She & Zena Blake (Sally Hawkins) have no choice but to set out on their own.

Nan is convinced they'll be a great & faithful couple to live happily ever after. But that first night, Zena robs her of their meager funds, & is gone.

Tipping the VelvetHomeless & starving & half mad, Nan sets out searching for a friend of old, Florence Banner (Jodhi May), who as she hoped does take her in. Florry is married with a child, very stern, & not at all a "Tom" as Nan had remembered her.

Florry's brother Ralph (Hugh Bonneville) is a socialist radical, yet Nan ends up more or less the maid for Florry & Ralph, until most happily life in the household begins to change more to Nan's liking.

This beautifully told, truly romantic tale closes with Nan returning to the stage as a Music Hall star. A charming largely faithful adaptation of the Sarah Waters' award-winning novel, the performances are endearing, whimsical, & full of powerful conviction.

The Music Hall tunes are authentic; the acts we observe are true to a type. That great number "Following in Father's Footsteps" was the signature song of male impersonator Vesta Tilley. The look of the film is equally dead-on, a stylish impression of the Yellow Nineties as it might or might not have been in fact, but one sure hopes it was.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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