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BBC America Cleans Up With Telepic

3/17/2002 7:00 PM Eastern

A raw, dark look at blue-collar life in England, BBC America's Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise
is a compelling telepic that puts the vacuum-cleaner sales game in a whole new light.

Director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) casts the film in shadow, creating a grimy version of blue-collar Manchester, keeping with the movie's overall bleak and somewhat surreal tone.

It's the story of Pete (Michael Begley) a down-on-his-luck, aspiring DJ whose only real "work" is accompanying his girlfriend Sheila (Katy Cavanaugh), a stripper. But Pete doesn't like to watch his girlfriend hustle, so when a vacuum salesman at a retirement party where Sheila is performing suggests that Pete give sales a go, he agrees.

He's teamed up with Tommy Rag (Timothy Spall of Topsy Turvy) — a self-absorbed, bull-in-a-china-shop sales dynamo obsessed with winning the "Golden Vac" as the top seller of the year.

But Tommy — whose sales style consists of bullying his way into homes and selling vacuums on credit to people who can't afford them — is worried that Pete is going to slow him down. Tommy's tactics disturb Pete, but he thinks that's the only way to get ahead. In one instance, he sells a vacuum to a destitute single mother who lives in a flat with no carpets, only to return and take it back out. He's then mugged by a gang of local toughs, who steal the vacuum. That convinces Sheila that Pete is a "loser," and she leaves him.

That development and others send Pete off the deep end, and Tommy is forced to snap him back into his version of reality. The convention in Blackpool, where the Vac will be awarded, is approaching, and Tommy must make more sales.

To do that, Pete and Tommy are forced to go to somewhat disturbing lengths — even to the bedrooms of a mother and her adult daughter.

On the way to collect what Tommy is sure will be his due in Blackpool, the two pick up a hitchhiker, a club DJ named De Kid who agrees to listen to Pete's tape. In Blackpool everything shifts — the teacher gets his comeuppance and the pupil his reward.

Shot on digital video via handheld cameras, Vacuuming
benefits from its gritty, disturbing feel. But it's Spall's tour de force performance that's the main reason the film is worth watching.

Begley's understated, almost aloof portrayal of Pete, meanwhile, is the perfect counterweight in this oddest of odd couples. It's obvious this relationship won't end well for someone, but getting there is all the fun.

Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise
premieres March 24 at 10 p.m. on BBC America.

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