DIRTY PRETTY THINGS
starring Audrey Tautou, Sergi López, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo
screenplay by Steve Knight
directed by Stephen Frears
directed by Dana Janklowicz-Mann & Amir Mann
starring Daniel Letterle, Joanna Chilcoat, Robin de Jesus, Steven Cutts
written and directed by Todd Graff
by Walter Chaw Stephen Frears, like antipodean director Phillip Noyce before him, found the Hollywood waters to be a touch turgid and so in 2000 went back to the small country where he first rose to prominence. For Frears, who made his first resonant mark with a fantastic quartet of films--My Beautiful Laundrette, Walter and June, Prick Up Your Ears, and Sammy and Rosie Get Laid--in the mid-'80s, the return to his homeland presaged a return to his interest in England's bottom caste and immigrant class, first with the grim, slight Liam and now with the trancelike, nightmarish Dirty Pretty Things. Its title both a reference to smarmy hotel manager Juan's (Sergi López) philosophy of hotel management ("Our guests are strangers--they leave dirty things, we make them pretty things") and the idea that the "pretty things" might be the film's pretty heroes, Nigerian refugee Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Turkish illegal Senay (Audrey Tautou), dirtied by the realities of blue-collar London. The struggle between the pragmatism of Juan's outlook and the idea of sullied purity of Okwe and Senay is really all you need know about the picture--it's a piece composed of equal parts social realism and fairytale martyrdom, with either part watered down by the other.