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Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit

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As part of an ongoing project to make more of the network's material available for rental, the BBC video department has released two different long-awaited coming-of-age dramas set in the 1970s. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit, based on Jeanette Winterson's acclaimed novel and sensitively directed by Beeban Kidron, is the story of a spunky young girl who comes of age while living with a vaguely pathetic yet frighteningly passionate fundamentalist group. As the girl gets older, she must decide between a rebellious new beginning as a college-bound lesbian and following in her adopted footsteps as a crazed missionary. A brilliant pitch-black comedy, Oranges manages to be at once creepy, sad and deliriously funny, aided immeasurably by brilliant performances by Charlotte Coleman as the girl and Geraldine McEwan as her abusive, mentally unbalanced and strangely charismatic adopted mother. One of the best films ever made about both adolescence and the appeal of blind faith, it's never less than riveting. Riveting, on the other hand, would not be a term to describe The Buddha Of Suburbia, a disappointingly predictable and lethargic coming-of-age story about a teenager (Naveen Andrews) who grows up half-Indian in an integrated household that includes his philandering father (Roshan Seth), a would-be middle-class guru, and his long-suffering wife played by Secrets & Lies' Brenda Blethyn. Based on Hanif Kureishi's semi-autobiographical novel, Buddha is all over the place, as Andrews' character careens through life, encountering poorly drawn characters representing the various social concerns of the '70s, from the birth of punk, to group sex, to drug use, to revolutionary politics, to wacky experimental theater groups, to, finally, fame and stardom as an actor-playwright. Along the way, Andrews' character learns that actresses are flighty, racism is bad, English people have a condescending attitude toward Indians, and fame and money are not all they're cracked up to be. It's all very bland, obvious and predictable, and one of the movie's main problems is that its lead character comes off as good-looking but dull—never the fiery, talented artist the film seems to want to view him as. Both Blethyn and Seth are good actors wasted in under-written parts, and none of the other actors are really given anything to work with. The incidental music by David Bowie is good but not nearly as prominently featured as the predictable soundtrack of glam, punk and new-wave golden oldies used to signify the passing of time. Unfortunately, the movie's four hours seem to pass almost as slowly as the eight years of the protagonist's life covered in the film.