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Koch Vision presents
Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise (2001)

"Sign here. I'm not going 'til you do."
- Tommy Rag (Timothy Spall)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 10, 2004

Stars: Timothy Spall, Michael Begley
Other Stars: Katy Cavanagh, Caroline Ashley, Alice Barry, Terry Barry, Sandra Gough, Renny Krupinski, Rodney Litchfield, Miriam Watkins
Director: Danny Boyle

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:15m:09s
Release Date: July 13, 2004
UPC: 741952622697
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

I guess one of the fundamental differences between British television and American is that the U.K. can get the likes of Danny Boyle (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) to direct a movie, while in the States its considered worthwhile if a secondary character from a failed sitcom gets behind the camera. The thing that makes Boyle such a ridiculously cool choice as a director for a BBC TV project is that his films traditionally involve strange working class characters and weird scenarios, all imbued with questionable levels of selflessness and self-preservation. This time around Boyle uncorks with a dark, twisted comedy that merges elements of slapstick and drama, but mostly survives with a steady stream of fast, raucous dialogue.

With Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise—written by Jim Cartwright, who also wrote the enjoyably offbeat Little Voice—Boyle takes on the cutthroat world of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen. Meek and mild twenty-something Pete (Michael Begley) is looking for himself, spending his time getting stripper gigs for his bitchy girlfriend, Sheila (Katy Cavanagh), while he tries to refine his club D.J. skills in their tiny apartment. When Sheila puts her foot down and demands that Pete start making some real money or else, he lands a job as a salesman for a vacuum cleaner company. This turns out to be a mixed blessing because, for training, Pete is teamed up with Tommy Rag (Timothy Spall), a frothy, oily, vile, and crude huckster who just happens to be the company's top salesman, despite the fact that his boss refers to him as "a spieler without ethics."

What's bad for Pete, however, is good for the viewer, because Spall's manically frenetic Tommy Rag is the comic focal point of Boyle's film; he's an explosive, sexist pig living out of his car whose mantra is literally "Sell or Die", and Spall takes on this vitriolic role like he's John Candy's long-lost evil and cruelly demented brother—his idea of a motivational tape is one with him repeatedly screaming "SELL, F***ING SELL!" Begley's gentle and kind Pete is certainly a likeable chap, but Spall gives one of those uniquely hyper performances that really carries the film, as he moves from hostility to rage to even a moment of unexpectedly repressed emotion as he tells poor Pete about a haunting dream he had, which serves as the basis for the film's title. It is a surprisingly tender scene, and Spall is so hair-trigger that even during a quiet passage like this, Boyle keeps viewers coiled because we're never sure if he's about to explode into a sales-induced rage.

As Tommy works his way toward winning the coveted "Golden Vac" award for most vacuums sold—something that is more important to him than life itself—he drags Pete around working-class England at 100 miles per hour, desperate to make just one more sale. Here's where Cartwright's screenplay introduces a stream of colorful characters, including a quirky salesman with a glass eye, a mysterious and sexy computer specialist, a weird old lady neighbor with a secret, and a woman, known as The Spaniard, who adopts a Spanish accent and black wig for no reason other than because Tommy Rag is a smooth talker. Begley's Pete, all nervous and shy, has an odd and poignant scene with his first vacuum sale involving a destitute single woman with a handful of kids; as one of the only characters in the film with any shred of normalcy, Pete ultimately acts as we secretly hope he would, and there is a brief glimmer of hope that everything might work out alright in the end. Maybe.

Boyle shot Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise on digital video, as he did with 28 Days Later, and there are scenes that look as if they could have been test footage for that zombie film. A scene where Pete runs nearly nude into the empty streets is almost a shot-for-shot precursor to the moment in 28 Days Later when a confused Cillian Murphy first ventures outside to get a look at the death-decimated streets, minus the bunny ears. Boyle's England is dirty and cold, and the flexibility of the format gives him the opportunity to employ a number of his trademark strange camera angles, which add to the often dizzying editing.

Why don't we get funny made-for-television stuff like this in the States?

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Boyle's film is presented in what appears to be roughly 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and even with his use of digital video it is difficult to tell whether the final look of the film on DVD is how he intended it or not. The grain and occasionally washed out colors appear to be intentional, but I can't say the same for the drastic fluctuations in fleshtones on the same character within a given scene. The overall quality improves somewhat as the film progresses, but the first 15 minutes or so are really a bit sketchy (intentional or not).

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is available in either Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 stereo. The 5.1 mix does spread out the soundfield slightly, but there are moments when the track takes on flat or dull tone for a moment or two before composing itself once again. There are no subtitles on this disc, so we're at the mercy of the clarity of the mix to allow us to make out all of the mileŚaŚminute chatter of Timothy Spall, and there are sequences where things were a real challenge to make out. In contrast, the 2.0 stereo track retains a consistent footing throughout, albeit without the benefit of coming across especially robust.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Office, Manchild, Janice Beard, Very Annie Mary, Intimacy, Sister My Sister
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Photo Gallery
Extras Review: Not much here other than a batch of trailers and a photo gallery of approximately 35 images.

The disc is cut into 17 chapters, and inexplicably does not feature subtitles of any kind, and I just know I missed some great lines of dialogue from Timothy Spall just because I had spots of difficulty deciphering his thick accent.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

In between junkies and zombies, Danny Boyle takes on manic black comedy in what might be referred to as his Glengarry Glen Ross, in this case the world of door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen. Timothy Spall, who always looks like he's on the verge of a major grabber, turns in one of those wickedly funny off-the-wall performances filled with vitriol, B.S., and lost dreams.

In true Boyle style, the comedic elements get very, very dark in spots.


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