A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 174 – Keeping Mum

Keeping Mum – August 21st, 2010

Tonight we’re visiting my parents – together this time so we didn’t have to watch the movie apart. When deciding what to bring with us we wanted to take both of their tastes into consideration, since it was highly likely they’d be watching with us. They’re not big action fans, and some of our weirder stuff would definitely not go over well. We didn’t want something too long, and we didn’t want something too esoteric. But then, I got my love of British comedy from both of my parents, so when Andy suggested this movie, it seemed rather perfect. We’d brought some alternatives: The Commitments and A Hard Day’s Night, as the former is one of my mother’s favorites and I also got my love of The Beatles from my parents in relation to the latter. But quirky dark comedy won out and here we are. My parents loved it, by the way, so mission accomplished there.

I loved it too, just so you know. I enjoyed it thoroughly, aside from the death of the dog. I think I’d have been fine with it, in keeping with the rest of the movie, if not for the little yelp. I know I’m quibbling over a pebble in my shoes in the middle of a desert, but it was a little cringey moment that actually made me cringe. It’s kind of funny, really. Funny odd, not funny ha-ha. Normally, in movies with comedy of embarrassment, I end up cringing more than laughing. But now, given that I’m spending more time actually thinking about what I’m watching and how I’m reacting to it, I find that British movies seem to get a bit of a pass. Maybe it’s the accents, or the setting. I don’t know. It’s still comedy of embarrassment, but in a more understated, less in-your-face way. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Sorry.

I suppose if one wanted to get all serious about the movie, one could say it’s about family and how important it is. And well, that’s true. In a way. It’s about how apparently, God works in mysterious ways. And that’s sort of true too. But it’s also about a sociopath who makes a lovely cup of tea, and the growing number of bodies she’s had to dispose of. The movie starts us right off with Rosie Jones, a young woman who’s pregnant and on a train trip. She’s reading an issue of Country Life and seems to be having a charming time. Except she’s also killed and dismembered her husband and his mistress and chucked the bits in her trunk before the trip. When she’s caught, she doesn’t seem at all apologetic. After all, she had to do something, right? She seems pretty cheerful, even as she’s locked up.

We rejoin the movie with the Goodfellow family, Reverend, Mrs. and the kids: Holly and Peter. Holly’s seventeen and sleeping with a parade of young men. Peter’s ostracized at school for being the reverend’s son. Walter, the reverend, is focused entirely on work and his wife, Gloria, is lonely and looking elsewhere. The local villagers are bothersome, the local dog is noisy, and life is, in general, unpleasant. Until the Goodfellows’ new housekeeper, Grace, shows up. And then, magically, everything seems to be solved! Bit by bit, every troublesome thing going on gets resolved. Mysteriously. But it’s not really that mysterious. And it’s not God.

If you know how dark comedies tend to go, you can probably guess what’s going on. If you need another hint, Gloria was raised in an orphanage and never knew her mother. It took me about ten seconds to figure out who Grace was and a second more to know what the movie would entail. This could be played very dark. I’m put in mind of Mother Love, an absolutely chilling series starring Diana Rigg. If one wanted to go in a serious direction, that’s how it would go. But no. No movie starring Rowan Atkinson as a reverend could possibly go in that direction. Humor it is!

As Grace discovers the problems the Goodfellow family is facing, of course she makes it her mission to solve them. By any means necessary. And Maggie Smith plays her with the best innocent looks and charm. She’s the heart of the movie, the homicidal sociopathic heart. While Rowan Atkinson certainly is amusing in his role, I’ve got to say he’s sort of in the background. Oh, he does a wonderful job whenever he’s on screen, and his speech near the end is fantastic, as is his pathetic attempt at goalkeeping in the village football match, but the one I really loved in the movie was Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays his wife. She’s delightfully desperate, wringing humor out of wry comments and sharp looks and exasperated sighs. Her life is certainly not what Country Life would have you believe it would be, living in a village like Little Wallop. She does a fantastic job with it all, from her affair with an American golf pro (played by Patrick Swayze, who didn’t have much screen time, but got some great lines in what he did have), to her dawning horror at what Grace has been up to.

It’s a charming little movie, if you enjoy this sort of darker humor, which I do. It’s got some fantastic performances from a few names and faces that are instantly recognizable. And it’s got a happy ending! Of course! Those who survive do live happily ever after.


August 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Mum

August 21, 2010

Keeping Mum

You know what I love? I love a clever British comedy with a fantastic cast. Say, Maggie Smith and Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott Thomas. And how about a black comedy with infidelity, sex and murder in the little English country town of Little Wallop. If that sounds as appealing to you as it does to me then this is the movie for you.

In this movie the Goodfellow family has problems. Mother Gloria is pent up, sexually frustrated, tempted to an affair with her cad of an American golf instructor, and cannot sleep through the night because of her neighbour’s annoying dog. Daughter Holly is a bit of a floozy and goes through boyfriends like Kleenex. Son Petey is a bit of a wimp and mommy’s boy who is picked on by everybody in his school. Father Reverend Walter Goodfellow is utterly clueless in every way. Everything is going wrong for them until they get a new housekeeper. Grace Hawkins (unbeknownst to everybody else) has only just gotten out of prison for the brutal murder of her husband and her mistress. She is a kind, simple, wonderful woman who just happens to have an uncharacteristically direct way of solving problems for herself and her family.

You know, it would probably be an okay movie give the fun script and plot, but it ends up being more than just a fun movie. That’s because this movie has that amazing cast, and is filled with gorgeous English countryside. As the clueless reverend we have Rowan Atkinson, who gets to mostly play the straight man for a change. He has a little bit of physical humor as he displays Walter’s ineptitude at football. But this is really a movie about the women.

It’s about Gloria Goodfellow (played brilliantly by Kristin Scott Thomas) and her quiet desperation. For one thing, she’s the only person in the movie who seems to understand what’s going on. She’s the intelligent core of the film. In spite of the fact that she very nearly enters into an extramarital affair with Lance (her sleazy golf instructor, played by Patrick Swayze in one of his last roles) you still completely sympathise with her. She’s tortured by her husband’s daft cluelessness. She is mortified by her daughter’s antics. And the movie is all about how Grace solves her problems and turns her life around, and why.

Grace herself, of course, is played with charm and good humor by Maggie Smith. It’s a tricky role, since for the humor to work you have to accept that for all her unusual methods for showing it she is entirely driven by benevolence. Everything she does is done for Gloria and for her family. And with the kind of dark humor involved in this kind of movie you can completely accept even the most brutal acts.

The humor, the scenery, the cast… everything in this movie seems custom tailored to my tastes. (Well, except for a bit of squeamishness on my part regarding a couple of Grace’s victims. Maybe they didn’t deserve what they got.) It makes me chuckle, makes me grin to see Gloria’s family repaired, and sends a bit of a chill down my spine now when somebody asks “shall I put the kettle on?”

August 21, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment