If I say a movie is a "thriller," what do you think? Fast-paced?
Adrenaline-pumping? Well, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS, by director Stephen Frears
(HIGH FIDELITY), is certainly a thriller, but it's none of those things.
Slow-paced and methodical, it is an absorbing and intriguing drama about
some shady goings-on at a London hotel, staffed almost exclusively by
illegal aliens -- or "undocumented workers," if you prefer the euphemism of
In two wonderfully likable and sympathetic performances, Chiwetel Ejiofor
and Audrey Tautou (AMLIE) play Okwe and Senay, two workers at the hotel.
Okwe is a taxicab driver by day and a hotel clerk by night, thanks to the
help of a coca-like leaf that he chews in order to stay awake. He is an
illegal alien from Nigeria, and she is one from Turkey. They both come to
each other's aid. She is currently involved in a cat-and-mouse struggle
with some Gestapo-like immigration officials.
Although Okwe is on the lam from immigration as well, his bigger problems
are with Juan (Sergi Ląpez from AN AFFAIR OF LOVE), his slimy boss at the
hotel. Juan has found a lucrative way to prey on vulnerable illegal
immigrants and wants to force Okwe to help his criminal activities. Even
before Okwe figures out what Juan is doing, Juan describes the role of the
"unseen" hotel staff. "They come in the night to do dirty things," Juan
says of the hotel's guests, "and it's our job in the morning to make it
pretty again." I won't tell you what the mystery is other than to say it
doesn't involve sex, as you probably assume. Among several satisfying
subplots is one involving Okwe's past.
The movie is well worth recommending for its thriller part alone, but, as
they say on DVD covers, there's bonus material. In addition to the mystery,
the story is filled with intriguing insights into the world of maids and
janitors and into the difficulties faced by those in a country illegally.
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS may not have you jumping much, but it will have you
thinking. It's an easy film to recommend. Think of it as an
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS runs 1:47. It is rated R for "sexual content,
disturbing images and language" and would be acceptable for most teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes