Since we’re more or less (okay, less) still within spitting distance of Valentine’s Day, Admin and I thought we’d review one of our favourite romantic Patrick Malahide scenes from the “Kiss of Life” episode of “Sensitive Skin“, when Veronica Dorkins (Maggie Steed) goes to meet hot-shot defense lawyer and old school friend, Lenny Richards, in his office. The results are… smouldering, to say the least!
[Veronica walks down a shadowy corridor and looks at a lovely brass nameplate looking for Lenny’s office. Apparently Lenny’s office is in posh digs.]
[We next see a painting of Juno beguiling Jupiter, which just may have some significance for the scene to follow. Lenny’s office seems to be jam-packed with nice stuff.]
Veronica: So things are looking hopeful.
Lenny: No, I wouldn’t say that.
Lenny: A cure for male pattern baldness is hopeful. Getting your husband off is as certain as… a rise in National Socialism followed by an increased demand for black leather goods.
RF: Well, that’s quite the interesting analogy to make. Still, it shows that Lenny has an active sense of humour and a more sophisticated one than Roger, who we saw clowning around with fruit in a previous scene. Note the fact he’s got impressive diplomas all over his walls as well as little objets d’art and what looks like an extremely expensive desk. Also note that this is the first time Lenny brings up “male pattern baldness” (in an extremely self-aware yet self-assured way) but not the last…
Admin: The scene opens with the most beautiful music: String Quartet No. 12 by Dvořák. Though, I should point out the entire series has a brilliant soundtrack. This piece is particularly perfect since it seems to convey both sadness and hope at the same time.
He does seem to go for the “objets d’art” (not knickknacks?) – thankfully Michael Gambon didn’t trundle in to criticize them. 😉 Interesting that the camera first focuses on Juno and Jupiter, then it shifts to a bronze of a bird preparing to seize its prey. Not a shot is wasted, and the analogies are rife.
I love Lennie’s dry sense of humor. He uses it to assert himself and to reassure Veronica at the same time. All in just a few brief lines. You know that fast but fluid technique works wonders in the courtroom.
RF: Very true about that bird of prey bronze having some significance. Even Roger expresses admiration (mixed with incredulous surprise) at Lenny’s ruthless courtroom techniques. And we find out later in the show just why Lenny has become so good at his profession.
Veronica: You’re sure?
Lenny: He’s been accused of off-sheet accountancy fraud. It’s extremely complicated stuff. The sort of thing Enron were up to. He’d have to be very bright to do what he’s accused of.
Veronica [defensively]: Roger’s bright…!
RF: I love how Lenny just completely side-steps that one. 😀 Obviously he has no intentions of getting into an argument with Veronica over Roger’s intelligence, even though he probably knows his client quite well by this point.
Admin: I like his patient intake of breath when she says, “Roger’s bright” (in a tone that a Wodehouse auntie would use to describe her favorite nephew) which certainly confirms that he knows the limits of Roger’s abilities. It is a great defense though: He just isn’t smart enough to be guilty.
Lenny [ignoring that one for now]: It involves things called SPEs. They’re an accountancy tool and they can be manipulated. When I asked your husband about them, he thought I was referring to off-road vehicles.
Veronica [holding back a snicker]: Things are looking more than hopeful, aren’t they?
RF: That little repressed snicker tends to suggest that Veronica’s perfectly aware Roger isn’t that bright, despite her loyal protests to the contrary.
Lenny: I think so.
Veronica: How much do I owe you?
Lenny: No, no. Not a penny.
Veronica: Oh, don’t be silly. It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.
Lenny [observantly]: You might have to forgo on the Gucci handbags if you did.
Veronica: Well, I think I have bought more than enough of those already.
RF: And here we see how it is that Lenny’s able to fill his expensive-looking office with such expensive-looking things. He’s verrrry expensive. He’s also aware enough of ladies’ fashions to recognize a Gucci handbag when he sees one, but then again, he’s maintained steady eye contact with Veronica the entire time. It’s our first hint at a couple of unanswered questions as well: why is he working pro bono for Veronica and Roger and… why is it that Veronica seemed so adamant earlier that she wouldn’t attend the trial?
Admin: With the Gucci line, we also get the first admission from Veronica that her life hasn’t exactly gone the way she would have liked. And I do like the way she quickly closes her handbag. You don’t buy high art bronzes on junior barrister pay.
RF: I assume she was going to write him a cheque since slipping him a tenner probably wouldn’t quite cover it. 😉
Lenny [looks at Veronica for a long moment, then at the clock]: Goodness. Look at that.
Lenny: Well, how long have you been in here? Ten minutes? It can’t have been less.
RF: And here’s our second big hint as to why Lenny is working pro bono. I like that he switches seamlessly from discussing the case and his (non-existent) fee to fairly subtle wooing; he’s being very classy about it. Nonetheless, the sexual tension is beginning to build… [fans self]
Admin: He holds the eye-contact, which is extremely intense, for a bit while he turns his head to the clock too. That is a really nice touch. I like how we are also seeing just how quickly Lennie can come up with a game plan.
RF: Very true that he’d probably been thinking about this ever since she walked in and planning what he was going to do. He also seems to know just the sort of game plan that would be most effective.
Lenny: So I swear it was five past twelve when you walked in.
Veronica: Then your clock’s stopped.
RF: Nice attempt at deflection by Veronica (and a very pragmatic answer) but we already get the sense it’s not going to work. 😉 She seems to be enjoying the teasing banter quite a lot even as she might be just the teeniest bit nervous (okay, a lot nervous) under Lenny’s gaze. And it’s becoming evident that these two know each other somewhat better than one might expect from an attorney/client relationship. Could there be some past history besides grade school at work here?
Admin: Yeah, there is a bit of squirming starting up there. Not from Lennie, though; he is being alarmingly direct.
RF: Alarmingly direct and not wasting any time. He’s gotten the business talk out of the way so now he can move on to the really important stuff.
Lenny: Or time.
RF: Now that is the perfect answer. 😀 Lenny is incredibly smooth but he’s also being completely genuine about it, which makes all the difference. He’s giving her a very expressive look of undisguised interest. Perhaps one might even say… yearning and desire. He’s being very restrained about it, but it’s all in his face. Also a very relevant answer given Veronica’s upcoming concerns about having grown old.
Admin: He says, “or time” almost like he’s issuing her a challenge. Well, in a way he is — since all the past stuff is now going to be brought up.
RF: Very good point! It is rather like a challenge and their conversation has become a bit of good-humoured back and forth fencing, but there’s an edge to it because of their past history and what both of them want, although they aren’t ready to voice it just yet.
Veronica [begins to squirm just a wee bit under Lenny’s gaze]: You’re staring at me.
Lenny: Well, when you’ve had nothing but a picture to look at since 1967, it’s hard not to.
RF: Oho, not only past history, but that sort of past history! They have indeed known each other for a while. Lenny’s tone changes here, becoming more emotional, expressive, and personal; there’s a tiny bit of chiding mixed in with some frustration as well as undisguised desire and… dare I say it… love. He still hasn’t taken his eyes off her either. He’s making his intentions and feelings very clear, though he hasn’t spelled anything out in words. Very surprising his desk hasn’t caught fire… Is that scorched wood we smell? 😉
Admin: It is brilliant. And you’re right, the frustration of having to wait about 40 years is really coming forward. Lennie isn’t quite so smooth now that he is trying to keep his emotions in check, and his intense honesty is really making poor Ronnie squirm.
RF: He does start to become a little less smooth as he’s trying to hold his emotions in check, but he’s also desperate to use this chance to let her know how much she means to him. When he mentions the photo, you just know it’s sitting somewhere prominent in his home where he can see it a lot.
Admin: That is probably very true. And it is in a nice (expensive!) frame, so it has never been smudged with fingerprints or teardrops. 🙂
Veronica: Please don’t. It makes me feel uncomfortable.
Lenny [surprised]: Why?
RF: I like Lenny’s little frown of complete bafflement that Veronica could be uncomfortable with his gaze since his intentions are obviously something he doesn’t think should cause her any pain. I think he’s intending it as a bit of reassurance as well. And we can see how this visit is becoming fraught with the sort of emotions Veronica was hoping to avoid by not seeing Lenny in action in the courtroom, yet she was inexorably drawn to see him. I mean, it’s not like she had to go see Lenny to ensure Roger’s case was proceeding just fine. So… perhaps she had some unspoken ulterior motives?
Admin: I know — he seems both genuinely puzzled and bit hurt when says “why”. I reckon he’s gotten so used to taking control of other people’s destinies, that he is genuinely stunned when the one destiny he *truly* wants to determine (for love, not money) seems frightened of him. That has to be a blow.
Veronica: I’ve grown old.
RF: Ah, Veronica perfectly expresses everyone’s fear, especially when one meets up with an old flame. However, this old flame’s torch appears to have been burning unabated since 1967. Or Lenny’s thrown some gasoline on it. 😉
Admin: I love Lenny’s expression when she says that. You can read his mind, “that’s it?” He is relieved he isn’t the one to blame for her distress, and you can tell he thinks it is a trivial reason that can be easily swatted aside.
RF: Or in his mind, she’s never changed from the [spoiler!] fifteen-year-old girl who rescued him from the bottom of the pool. 🙂
Admin: Awwwww! 🙂 Honestly, I wish this episode had been a full-length movie instead, so we could have seen more of the past. (Spoiler again: Though it did close with a bit of a flashback scene)
Lenny: Flat-packed furniture’s brand new. It’s the Chippendale that’s priceless.
Veronica: You’re comparing me with a bit of old mahogany?
Lenny: I was actually referring to the curves.
RF: Once again, the perfect answer. 😀 I admit, I raised my eyebrows a wee bit the first time I heard the furniture comparison, but Lenny really makes it work. He goes straight back to eye contact after laughing at Veronica’s riposte; he’s letting her know that as far as he’s concerned, she’s still someone he’s wildly attracted to, no matter how much time has passed. The sexual tension is becoming so thick in there that one could cut it with a knife – which is precisely what Lenny was intending, I’m sure. Yet no one’s moved from their seat and the discussion has been completely… civilized. It’s all a matter of tone, suggestion, and expression. Note that lethal dimples have been deployed! Resistance is futile!
RF: The fact that Veronica can joke and banter back even while she’s squirming tends to suggest the change in atmosphere isn’t entirely unwelcome to her, too. She’s giving Lenny almost as good as what he’s dishing out.
Admin: True, the furniture analogy seems, at first, cliched. But, then it becomes anything but cliche after he amps it up. It is so cute the way he smiles after her comeback. He is happy to see her being sparky and sharp, an obvious improvement over the moment before when she was squirming and nervous. It gives us a pretty good idea as to what they were like together back in 1967.
RF: Absolutely red-hot. 😀
Veronica [beginning to lose her composure]: I – I should go.
Lenny [with great self-assurance]: Absolutely. Where to?
RF: Attempt at escape: thwarted! Lenny effortlessly turns her words into something completely other than what she intended. But he is a hotshot lawyer. I also love his air of complete self-assurance and confidence as he says it. He’s not going to let Veronica get away so easily. Also note that he stands up here, beginning to remove the physical barrier of his desk from between them.
Admin: Once again he does his little “I’m issuing a challenge” look when he says “where to?” It is slightly playful, but still very determined.
Lenny: For lunch?
Veronica: Oh no, I – I couldn’t.
Lenny: Why not?
Lenny: Don’t tell him.
Veronica: No, that’s not the point.
Lenny: You didn’t tell him before.
RF: Oh, so there’s been a before! 😀 Okay, we could’ve guessed that already. But how many befores? It would seem to be quite a few. And Lenny seems completely confident that he has the simplest, most practical answer to Veronica’s dilemma – whatever Roger doesn’t know (and hasn’t known for years, apparently) won’t hurt him.
RF: It’s also interesting to note that Lenny’s love for Veronica is such that not only will he take on Roger’s case for no fee, he’ll also do his best to get the man he dislikes (Roger’s description of their schooldays pretty much confirms that Roger and others enjoyed bullying Lenny) acquitted, simply because he adores the woman Roger’s married to. Aaaawww! 🙂
Admin: It is so easy to see why he became a barrister, he just knocks arguments aside like they are mere flies. Naturally, he pretty much equates Roger with one of those annoying flies. Not that he’d squish Roger, but he totally sees him as being absolutely inconsequential to the whole argument.
Veronica: He’s my husband.
Lenny: Is that the husband who was still your husband when I became your lover?
Veronica: That was a long time ago.
Lenny: Well, that depends upon your point of view. I mean, to me, the formation of the earth’s crust was a very long time ago. But when it comes to us, there hasn’t even been the blink of an eye.
RF: Not that long ago, judging by both of their reactions. Or at any rate, it doesn’t seem like that long ago to either of them, especially Lenny. Plainly, neither of them has forgotten a single thing about their relationship – and Lenny’s very interested in renewing it. He’s staying on point with his questions, too, applying some interesting and extremely romantic logic and not letting Veronica evade him, even if her evasions is beginning to seem like it’s mostly superficial. He also continues to keep eye contact as he moves closer to her, creating more intimacy without encroaching uncomfortably on her personal space. And we also get a nice, confident lean on his desk. He doesn’t give up easily! Or more likely, he already suspects he’s won this case. Surely the carpet’s on fire by now.
RF: It’s also interesting to discover that seemingly straitlaced and very faithful Veronica actually had an affair, but we find out later that it was actually something of a crisis for her and she’s been agonizing ever since that she made the wrong decision by choosing to stay with Roger.
Admin: He is so honest about their past regret of not getting together when they had their first chance and his determination to not let that happen again is staggering.
Veronica [beginning to lose resolve]: That’s not going to work.
Lenny: [confident smirk]
[Aaaaaannnnd the next thing we know, they’re at lunch.]
RF: Ah, that confident smirk paid off! We knew she wouldn’t be able to resist him for long, not that she was really trying too hard. Her faint protest of “That’s not going to work” seems to indicate that she’s already made up her mind. And having seen Roger, who can really blame her? Lenny has loads more charm and an active romantic interest in Veronica, whereas Roger seems to take her very much for granted. We’ve also heard Veronica defending Lenny, asking others not to call him “Rickety”, and now we have more of an idea why she was doing that. There’s a lot of suppressed love and passion going on here… We can only hope we’ll see it released by the end of the show.
Admin: True, much of her arguing now just seems like she’s saying things that are expected of her. Or, more likely, she’s arguing out loud with herself. He is feeling pretty confident that he is looking a lot better than Roger in his knitted hipster beanie. 😉 And the sexual tension is palpable. It isn’t often television shows older people in that light, but it is a main theme in Sensitive Skin with this scene being (in my opinion) the very best example.
And the whole “Rickety” bit, even I was a bit disappointed in Davina (Joanna Lumley) when she called him that. I can get Roger doing it, he’s a dolt, but not Davina. (Note: that scene isn’t included in the clips below, but is a reference to a childhood nickname that Lennie had due to his clubfoot and social standing.)
RF: I was disappointed in Davina calling Lenny “Rickety” too, especially since she knew how Veronica felt about him. It seemed kind of out of place, like she was joining in with all the other bullying kids.
Admin: I know, and Davina seems so much nicer than that. Even if she did succumb to her peers and bullied Lennie, she’d be the sort who would feel badly about it years later. I suppose it was written in to give Veronica a chance to defend Lennie, thus showing she does love him, but it felt weird.
RF: It’s just an amazing scene all around, but that entire episode is full of amazing scenes. So wonderful to see Mr. Malahide in an unabashedly romantic role, conveying playfulness, vulnerability, determination, frustrated love, and leashed desire all at once. Watching Lenny banter and joke while making it perfectly clear that he’s had feelings for Veronica for decades and isn’t going to let the chance to right a past wrong slip away makes me fervently hope for their relationship. Their interaction is very different from that we see between Veronica and Roger; they have lovely chemistry and really do seem to belong together.
Admin: “Unabashedly romantic” is a perfect description. It is one of the most perfect pieces of filmed romance I’ve ever seen. They seem so natural together; there was nothing forced about their chemistry. Tension and hope are shown, but so are humor and playfulness. It is lovely. 🙂
RF: You can watch the scene below starting from the beginning to the 4:16 mark.