Article Title:Review: Glam LA tranny adopts obsessive Kiwi motorcyclist
Author or Credit:Jay Bennie
Published on:28th January 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1098
Text:Did you know there is a glbt plot line in the current NZ movie hit The World's Fastest Indian? No? Well, I didn't either. Perhaps it's an indictment of the movie's promoters in not even hinting publicly at the tender and sweet connection between a grizzled old Invercargill motorbike mechanic and streetwise LA chap in a frock. Or maybe it's an indictment of my own circle of friends and acquaintances that it was only a few days ago that we finally went to see The World's Fastest Indian. And that's quite an indictment on this ex-Southlander who is related to the indefatigable back shed tinkerer Burt Munro in two, slightly convoluted, ways. But the gay plot line is there for a sizable chunk of screen time... a charming subplot in which Burt arrives in Los Angeles and checks into a seedy motel whose pouting receptionist has big hair, thick makeup and a prominent adam's apple. It's an indication of just how direct this feel-good movie is about aspects of sexuality that most Hollywood product avoids like the plague. Old folks have sex too! And old Burt is quite the ladies man in Invercargill and the USA. Each encounter is handled with grace and tenderness by the film's director and actors. Annie Whittle, as Burt's Invercargill lady friend, probably gets the best line of the movie when she confronts a group of purse-lipped neighbours as she emerges from Burt's oily boudoir: "What are you staring at!" she counters... "Dirty old men need love too!" It's a measure of the dignity and humanity of Anthony Hopkins' performance that scenes of him snuggling in with ladies of mature years seem natural, part of being a flesh and blood person with needs and passions as powerful as any younger person's. Likewise, the handling of Burt's encounter with the remarkably helpful Hollywood motel receptionist Tina ("How many hours do you want the room for honey?") is tender and almost romantic. It is Tina, played by Vanessa Williams' brother Chris, who perhaps gets the next best line of the film... after she tenderly kisses Burt goodbye the geriatric boy racer looks at her eye to eye and says with the barest touch of irony "It's a good thing I think you're a girl!" "But I am a girl Burt" Tina says archly, huskily. Like every other person whose path Burt crosses on his inspiring journey to set world speed records which still stand today, their relationship is at first wary, then incredulous, then mutually supportive. The recreations of South Invercargill of the mid 1960s are spot on, as is everything else about The World's Fastest Indian... even pommy megastar Anthony Hopkins' accent rings so true he sounds exactly like Burt's brother in law (and my uncle) Norman. But it's ultimately the feel-good factors that power director Roger Donaldson's beautiful piece of uncomplicated film making to greatness... one man against the world, personal obsession blended with rustic naiveté, the bewildered clash of 1960s NZ and American cultures, and enough nail-biting and genuinely emotional moments to have the entire audience rooting for Burt all the way. The World's Fastest Indian is still playing throughout the country but its days must be numbered so see it as soon as you can. I challenge you not to get slightly teary during a certain scene on the Bonneville salt flats, and I further challenge you not to feel warm and inspired by the friendship of an obsessive old bloke and a glamourous LA tranny. (And if you think 1950s and '60s Southland must have been so uptight about homosexuality as to make the Burt/Tina subplot an unlikely fiction I've included below a link to an editorial written a couple of years ago about another real life incident which might make you think again.) Jay Bennie - 28th January 2006    
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