Beautiful People


             Much as Paul Thomas Anderson did with MAGNOLIA, Bosnian filmmaker Jasmin Dizdar
     invokes the spirit of Robert Altman in his film
BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. Interweaving the stories of
     some 25 characters, Dizdar paints a portrait of 1993 London filtered through the eyes of the
     "outsider" -- whether it be the immigrant or the disenfranchised or merely the dissatisfied. The
     film's strength (which also points up its weakness) lies in the way Dizdar allows the myriad stories
     He tells to unfold. There are roughly four major story lines that emerge: a twentysomething heroin
     addict determined to travel to Amsterdam with his mates to attend an important soccer match
     inadvertently ends up in the former Yugoslavia; a recently separated obstetrician struggling
     to retain custody of his sons becomes aware of the atrocities committed in Bosnia via one of his
     patients; a Serb and a Croat wage an almost comic battle that spills over from public
     transportation to their shared hospital room; and a medical student from a posh background falls
     in love with a refugee she met while treating him in the hospital.

             In cut and dry terms, the plot doesn't sound like much, but Dizdar and his gifted cast bring
     the film to life. While he owes much to Altman for his structure, the writer-director also invokes
     the socio-political aspects of British films like those of directors Mike Leigh and Kenneth Loach.
     Issues of class (hilariously and poignantly played out in a dinner scene between the medic, her
     Bosnian lover and her snooty family) and ethnic identity (the cartoon-like carryings on between
     the Serb and the Croat) permeate the piece. Each character is forced to reexamine his or her
     views and in most cases change them, lending the title a degree of irony and a degree of truth.

             I suspect how one reacts to the film will be dictated by one's taste. Just as Altman and Paul
     Thomas Anderson have their champions and their detractors, I'm sure this film will as well. The
     cast all do well in their roles, with Danny Nusbaum as the heroin addict, Edin Dzandzanovic as
     the Bosnian refugee who romances the doctor and makes a startling revelation and Nicholas
     Farrell as the overworked medic coping with a crumbling marriage standing out.

             While Dizdar still has a few things to learn about pacing scenes, he almost compensates
     with a stunning final sequence that takes several of the stories to logical but sometimes surprising
     conclusions. In the end, then,
BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE achieves its goal. It raises some important
     issues and leaves its audience to contemplate them without a sanitized or manufactured happy
     ending.


                                                        

                                                             Rating:                B
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.