This three-episode, made-for-BBC mini-series lives up to the components of its title in spades. “The Line of Beauty” finds its way as a headline in the première issue of OGEE, a new upscale magazine published by totally-out Nick (Dan Stevens, who sails through the demanding role with outwardly boyish good looks and an inborn duplicity that is perfect for the character) and his forever-closeted fuck buddy Antoine (Alex Wyndham, greedily devoured by David Odd’s unfaltering camera as surely as his covey of “kiss-don’t-tell” lovers).
Lines of coke are readily available for PhD candidate Nick (a dissertation on Henry James that is permanently pushed to the back burner once the “adopted” son succumbs to his new family’s life of privilege) and his upper-class friends (not least of which is Toby—Oliver Coleman—whose curvy, tightly towelled ass and fuzzy chest drive his Oxford chum to distraction, yet only the art-savvy opportunist knows why).
Lines of script: “I appreciate your tact,” says Tory Cabinet minster Gerald Finn (brilliantly rendered with just the right measure of lechery/larceny by Tim McInnerny) in thanks to Nick for keeping quiet about the MP’s mistress; “Homeless love,” says Nick’s first lover, Leo (Don Gilet, beautifully at home in and out of his queer skin) after the interracial couple lustily lose a load in the garden.
Beauty: the men are artfully and, for some viewers, not frequently enough undraped; the women (especially Hayley Atwell as Toby’s manic sister and Nick’s soul mate, Cat) fill their gowns and designer duds with style and grace; the sets: from countryside homes to a mere “Manoir” in France, the lodgings and trappings of the aristocracy (and a few of their pretenders) delight the screen as only the British can; the music: from a Schubert Impromptu to a haunting Beethoven Andante to the nearly-cheesy strings that signal the end of each segment, the ear enjoys almost as much as the eye.
But for all its sumptuous production values, marvellous cast and Saul Dibb’s faithful realization of Alan Hollinghurst’s novel, the unintentional message emerges as clear as Waterford crystal: all of the participants are accomplished liars, epidemically afflicted with willful blindness and—with the possible exception of early HIV/AIDS statistic Leo (whose look, look away after unexpectedly running into his, now, former shagger, Nick, wordlessly confirms the diagnosis with the disease that dare not speak its name)—most assuredly deserve their comeuppance, loneliness and despair. Think Enron (cross-reference below) years ahead of its time, but still motivated by personal greed.
Dibb’s artful three-ring morality play is a magnificent—if depressing in its believability—accomplishment. JWR