Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, 1988, British, Miramax, 98 minutes, color. Directed by Stephen Frears. Screenplay by Hanif Kureishi. Cast includes Shashi Kapoor as Rafi Rahman, Frances Barber as Rosie Hobbs, Claire Bloom as Alice, Ayub Khan-Din as Sammy, Roland Gift as Danny/Victoria, Wendy Gazelle as Anna, Meera Syal as Anna, Suzette Llewelly as Vivia, Badi Uzzaman as Cabbie/The Ghost. Rating: Eight stars out of 10.
Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a film that defines the end of a generation. It's the mid-1980s and the sexual and political revolutions of the 1960s still flourish, but definitely as a counter-culture. The ideas, as Rosie puts it, of "Freedom plus commitment" is being rejected by a British society that has embraced Margaret Thatcher and the ideals of strict conservative morality and capitalism. Still, in a pocket of color within London, Sammy, an immigrant accountant and his wife Rosie, a social worker, thrive. They are in love and have lovers. Sammy is currently having an affair with Wendy, an American artist with Ws tattoed on both buttocks. As Anna explains, everytime she bends over it spells WOW. Rosie will soon bed an attractive black squatter called Victoria (played by Fine Young Cannibals singer Gift) by those who like him. Sammy and Rosie like their life. They spend weekends at plays, essays, classes, and walking through their city, London. As they exclaim, they are Londoners, not Brits. An eclectic crowd surrounds them of gays, homeless, artists, council (public housing) dwellers, squatters, immigrant shopkeepers, scared, vicious police, and riots. However, life is changing. Sammy and Rosie's part of London is beginning to percolate as racial tensions and injustice bubble to the surface. The police kill a black woman who thought her home was being invaded. Before the film is over, the neighborhood will at times begin to resemble 1980s Beirut.
Critic Roger Ebert describes Sammy and Rosie as a film about London, and writes that those who love London will appreciate director Frears and screenwriter Kureishi's efforts to bring London to its multi-cultural life. Many different scenes of London are displayed: Sammy's office, an artist's studio, a wealthy woman's home, Sammy and Rosie's apartment, a council flat, a squatter's settlement, London parks, the airport, a riot in the streets, and a lot more. Kureishi's films have brought many Asian actors to mainstream audiences, and in Sammy and Rosie, the famous Indian actor Shashi Kapoor stars as Sammy's father Rafi, a former high political figure in his native country (It is never made clear what the country is) who has a reputation as a torturer and murderer of thousands. Rafi returns to England to see his son and visit an English woman, Alice -- played by Claire Bloom -- whom he loved and abandoned 30 years ago. Rafi also confides to Sammy that he is on the run from potential assassins, and that he wants to give his fortune to Sammy.
Rafi is suffering though. He continues to see a ghost of a man with one eye and a bandage over his head, who first appears as his cabby at the airport. This ghost will eventually lead Rafi to a terrifying experience. Rafi also finds the sexual lifestyle of Sammy and Rosie disturbing, but remains tolerant to a degree. However, his hopes to live a peaceful life with his son and daughter-in-law are threatened when details of his past as a torturer are slowly revealed. Rosie cannot accept it, and her lesbian friends are ready to kill Rafi. He also receives a deserved comeuppance from spurned lover Alice, who at times resembles a modern-day Miss Havershim.
Rafi's visit eventually brings Sammy and Rosie to a realization that perhaps they aren't as open minded as they thought. The tragedy of his time with them brings a disagreement --- Sammy can't abandon his dad, and Rosie can't forgive and forget what he's done. Eventually, his presence leads to a break-up. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is a witty, at times touching film with an honest ending that portrays racism and oppression without blinders. There's no happy ending because it doesn't exist yet.
-- Doug Gibson