The movie follows the rise and fall of Kate (O'Connor) and her band. It takes place during a period of extreme political and social unrest in Britain. Breaking Glass can be gritty and violent in places. Since I was born two years after the film was released, I have to rely on Jay to tell me if pubs full of people shouting "Sieg heil!" and attacking the band was normal at the time. He says, unfortunately, it was.
Hazel O'Connor's Kate is every bit as aggressive and in-your-face as the rest of the film. In short, she's kinda scary but, you know, it was the Eighties...
Kate's journey from idealistic nobody to broken pop star is a rocky ride. Her band is a motley assorment of people (the saxaphonist, for instance, is almost completely deaf) who can't seem to get noticed by anyone in the music industry. When they eventually do -- thanks in part to the determination (and dodgy tactics) of Phil Daniels's Danny -- tragedy strikes.
After watching a teenager die at a (kind of failed) music festival, Kate slips into a deep depression that she can't pull herself out of. Meanwhile, the record company starts manipulating the band so that the members turn against their manager, Danny, and each other. Though the band keeps gaining popularity, they find it harder and harder to go on. Until they don't.
Don't expect a happy ending from this one. It finishes on such a downer that I suggest you have chocolates and puppies standing by.
I suppose it won't surprise you to learn that Jay and I don't see eye-to-eye on Breaking Glass. (Do we ever?) Here's why: when the band's producer starts showing interest in Kate, Danny (who, apparently, is dating Kate -- though that's not clear) becomes abusive. Well, I see his character as abusive...
Jay sees Danny as the wronged boyfriend. He says that Kate was "blinded by the bright lights" and let herself get used. For him, it's a failed romance. Hmm.
After filming finishes on her first music video, the producer approaches Kate to tell her that she did a good job and Danny cuts in, suggesting she puts a coat on. Doesn't want another man looking at her? Abusive. Later, when they're alone, he says, "You were terrible." When she tells him she is who she is, he replies with "not what you were." Constantly putting her down? Abusive.
Kate's reply here is perfect: "You look up to me as an idol, then you cut me down." Sums up being a woman pretty well, right?
Anyway, Danny starts acting like a world-class jerk. He's lost control of the band, and Kate, and he doesn't like it. That's nothing to do with romance; that's power. There's a scene where Danny storms up to Kate after a gig, demanding that she return to the stage for an encore. He shouts at her, towering over here where she sits, jabbing a finger at her. All a power play.
Sorry, hun, this ain't no romance.
I guess it sounds like I'm coming down pretty hard on the movie. I don't dislike it, honestly, but it's not the kind of thing I would have watched without Jay. The plot (good musician struggles to make a career of it, then cracks when they make it) has been done a million times before and the punk thing makes it feel old, but it isn't particularly hard to watch. As much as I love the soundtrack (and I really do), I doubt I'd ever bother with Breaking Glass again.
Have you seen it? Let me know what you thought.