Cinema: At Home in Ambrosia

Billy Liar. Thousands cheer. Victorious in battle, laden with decorations for heroism, the beloved dictator smiles. He raises his arm in a smart, left-handed salute. Suddenly his mother begins banging a spoon against the banister downstairs: "Hey, your boiled egg is stone-cold." All right, luv. He goes to breakfast, gets ready for work, listens to Mum, Dad and Granny whining platitudes until he turns from his shaving mirror just long enough to mow them down with a tommy gun.

The dictator is Billy Liar, hero of a tragicomic fantasy that squeaks out a success by using its essentially hackneyed humor to freshen...

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