- For my wife, who even though she isn't a film fan, when she likes a movie, it's always a damn good one.
This review is dedicated to my wife because even though she is a lesbian, her favorite kind of love stories are always about the love between two men.
Starring – Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, John Gielgud
Directed by Peter Glenville
“…you give the lions of England back to me, like a little boy who doesn’t want to play anymore. I would have gone to war with all of England’s might behind me and even against England’s interest to defend you, Thomas. I would have given away my life laughingly for you, only I loved you and you didn’t love me that’s the difference.” -Peter O’Toole as King Henry II of England speaking to the man he loves, but who is now his enemy, Thomas Becket
Back when my wife and I were first dating almost 20 years ago now, she very quickly discovered that I loved movies, just like I very quickly discovered that she loved books, so I started doing lots of reading of the books she loved and she tried her best to watch the movies that I loved, but she’s never been much of a film fan, so she did the best that she could. Let’s just say that when I introduced her to the film Somewhere In Time, that didn’t go over so well. After the movie was over, I wanted to discuss the whole philosophy my uncle and I had about how did the whole romance really start since it’s a time travel movie, and she thought it was kind of a silly romance and had a much better romantic movie for me to watch instead and it was even gay to boot, Becket. And she was right, kind of. Becket is a much better romantic movie, but I still love Somewhere in Time even though I got her point that without the whole wondering of how did the romance all start since the guy lived in the present day and the love of his life lived in the past, so how did he get the watch from her if he hadn’t gone to the past yet for her to get it from him (trust me, I can talk about this all day and now I want to see the movie again to once again ponder this), the rest of the movie was kind of silly. But still, the movie has Jane Seymour, who I’ve loved since I can remember because she was on my TV a lot when I was growing up, and a cameo from one of my favorite actresses of all time, Teresa Wright, so I still love the movie, because like I’ve mentioned before, my love of women always makes me love films and TV shows that aren’t necessarily that good, but love seems to blind me to this and that’s just fine and dandy with me because I still get to watch the ladies that I love even if I don’t like what they’re in.
Jane Seymour and Teresa Wright.
Their beauty makes me watch kind of bad TV shows and movies sometimes, but it’s always worth it to me. Although, I can’t think of one bad movie Teresa Wright starred in, so my love for her must be more blind than normal or else she was really good at being in good movies. 🙂
So, after I crashed and failed with Somewhere In Time, we tried Becket and my wife was so right. It was a beautiful love story, and mostly because it was true. Well, it is a movie that is based on a play, so the history isn’t totally accurate, but it’s pretty damn close for a movie, because usually movies about history are horribly inaccurate. The real life Thomas Becket and Henry II were basically best buds way back in England during the 1100s, so it was a really fucking long time ago, but they loved each other so much, that their love still lives on in history today. So the history of them is basically this – Becket was Henry II’s right hand man and Henry II thought Becket would always be totally and completely loyal to him no matter what, but they ended up disputing about a lot of stuff after Henry II made Becket the Archbishop of Canterbury, but the movie only concentrates on one of these disputes, which was whether or not priests should face punishment for their crimes from the leaders of the Catholic Church versus England, aka, Henry II.
In the film, they show how all of this began thanks to the main guy of the Catholic Church in England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, dying, so once he was gone, Henry II wanted control of the Church, so he was like, “Let’s get my best friend in there so I can be in charge of the Church. Problem solved!” And so, he appointed Becket to be Archbishop of Canterbury, even though Becket wasn’t exactly even close to being qualified, and so Henry II thought control of the church would now be his because Becket had always supported him before. After Becket is made Archbishop, in the film, he soon rules that a priest accused of molesting a young parishioner should face trial by the leaders of the Church, not by Henry II. And then all hell broke loose in real life and in the movie Becket. They spent years bickering and fighting, and Becket eventually had to leave the country for a while, only to return once he and Henry II made up, only for them to break up again. Henry II finally ended it all after saying to some of his knight friends, “Will no one rid me of the turbulent priest?” And so they took his words seriously and murdered Becket. And then later, Henry II deeply regretted this and did some serious fucking penance by having a bunch of priests beat his back with a rod. Things sure weren’t boring back then even without TVs or smart phones or tablets or computers to keep people entertained.
The real life Thomas Becket and Henry II way, way, way back in the 1100s.
You know, we’re all walking around nowadays thinking we’re so much better off than people who lived back then, but who really is better off? People who lived back then didn’t ever worry about getting enough likes on their Facebook posts or obsessing over getting the latest iPhone. Back then, people worried about real shit like whether or not your soul would be forever saved or forever damned. I think technology has made us all worrywarts about a bunch of crap that doesn’t even matter. No one worries about their soul anymore. But back when we weren’t so distracted by computers and phones and tablets and TVs and such, that was the real shit to worry about. And in my opinion, it still is. As a Nichiren Buddhist, I don’t chant twice a day to get a new iPhone or to become popular on social media. I chant my little heart out because I wanna be like the Buddha and get me some of that enlightenment stuff for my soul too.
Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton as Henry II and Thomas Becket.
They don’t make actors like this anymore or movies like this for that matter. God, these two were fucking awesome together in this film. And no God damned CGI in the film to distract us from what was going on either. I’m so sick of CGI. Give me movies like this without all that computer crap to distract the audience any day.
And during all of this pretty accurate history and bickering and fighting in the movie over who gets to decide if a priest should be punished for molesting a young woman, a love story slowly bubbles to the surface. It being 1964 and all, it isn’t super obvious for a while because remember, us homosexuals weren’t allowed to exist back then, especially in the movies, but still in a way, it’s kind of obvious after a while that they are in love with each other even though they were probably never actually lovers, it still shines through in the film that these were two men who loved each other with all of their heart and soul even when they hated each other.
And now I’m going to let my wife take over this review in a way because she has read the play Becket tons of times (remember, she’s way more of a reader than a TV watcher) and seen the movie tons of times (because it really is just that good and that gay). And because I found myself sitting here trying to figure out how to describe the love between these two men in the film, but I just couldn’t quite word it right because I kept thinking about what my wife said to me after we talked about Becket recently, so when she called on her lunch break after I was just sitting here thinking, thinking, thinking about what to write, but coming up with bupkis, I told her that I was going to paraphrase her thoughts because she knows her Becket shit way better than me…
My wife saw Becket and Henry II’s brotherly bromance as a love story because they were so tight with each other that they fulfilled each other’s every emotional need. They only seemed to have sex with women as a physical release or to produce children, nothing more. When it came to who they hung out with, who they had fun with, who they talked to about their innermost thoughts, it was all between the two of them. No woman did that for them. As my wife said, “Becket loved Henry as his sovereign, as his friend, as one of the only people worth hanging out with. The only thing their love was missing was sex. No reason to think they didn’t have sex, but it wasn’t the focus…They were soul brothers…The depth of the love between them was transcendent. Sex didn’t need to be a part of it. Although it’s fun, having sex is just something that feels good. Making love is an emotional connection and they had it in spades. Didn’t matter if they were sleeping with girls or each other. They were the emotional center of the universe with each other.”
And how fucking beautiful was that?! No wonder I decided to use her words instead of mine. I can’t write anything better than what she told me on the phone. This is a woman who passionately loves this love story between these two men and I can see why. We watched Becket again for the first time since we were first dating on Christmas Day a couple of weeks ago, and she fell in love with the movie all over again, and I fell in love with her all over again (as I often do) because this film gives her a passion unlike any other film I have watched with her before or since. Forget winning an Oscar; having my wife, who is just really not into movies, feel that passionate about a film, is probably the best compliment a film could ever get. No wonder I love this woman so much. She is one of the rare people left in the world who doesn’t have a smart phone (she’s got one of those flip phones and no making fun of her because people always do that whenever they see her flip phone and that really upsets her; she’s happy with her flip phone, people, leave her alone), who really only uses her tablet to read stories, and can see the beauty in things most people miss, like the platonic love between two men from history that was so beautiful, it kept her company when she was a lonely, sad, repressed teenage lesbian and would go to the library to read the play over and over again. And that’s why I love Becket, because she loved Becket, and Becket loved her when no one else did. Becket was there for her when I was still a few years away from finding her. Becket kept my wife warm in love until I showed up to help give her the love she read about in the play, except without one of us killing the other in the end, of course. So I just want to simply tell my wife that I love her and I’m so glad that she didn’t like Somewhere In Time, because it gave us Becket to share together until the end of time. 🙂
Fun Fact 1: Just four year later in 1968, Peter O’Toole proved what a fucking kick ass actor he was because he played Henry II again in the film The Lion in Winter, but this time instead of a young Henry, he played Henry towards the end of his life, and spending the whole movie doing some of the best damn bantering in any film ever with Katherine Hepburn, who played his wife. Damn good movie even without a gay subtexual love story.
Fun Fact 2: John Gielgud plays a French king in the film and he plays him like this French king was one gay, gay, gay, gay man. That could have something to do with the fact that John Gielgud was gay in real life. Whatever the reason for the super gayness of the French king, Gielgud ended up getting an Oscar nomination for it. So, I guess Oscar voters back then liked gay kings. Who knew?