Wednesday, February 15, 2006

KEEPING MUM: Mr Bean Plays It Straight

(dark comedy)
Time: 105 mins
Rating: * * *
Rowan Atkinson and Maggie Smith
IT is hard to imagine Rowan ‘Mr Bean’ Atkinson in a straight role, but this black comedy is as close as it can get. Atkinson plays the Reverend Walter Goodfellow, a workaholic priest of a small town called Little Wallop (population: 57) in rural England.

Walter is so engrossed working on his Sunday sermons that he has neglected his family. His sex-starved wife, Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas) is starting an affair with her golf-pro (Patrick Swayze), her daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton) is the village slut, and his sensitive son Petey (Tobey Parkes) is being bullied at school.

The family is in dire need of straightening up and this is just the job for their new housekeeper Grace (Maggie Smith). Grace’s penchant for solving household problems is apparent when she manages to put an end to the incessant barking of the neighbour’s dog, providing Gloria with her first good night’s sleep in a long time. Gloria does not know how her godsend of a housekeeper does it, but she is grateful. Grace also manages to take care of other little problems, like stopping the naughty boys from bullying Petey at school.

Grace’s solutions to the Goodfellows’ problems are somewhat unorthodox — and rather terminal. And the real fun here lies in discovering how she puts an end to her boss’ woes. Smith carries the comedy with the proverbial straight face and good naturedness and we can’t help but root for her. Of course, there is a twist to the plot and the clue lies in the movie’s title, Keeping Mum, which is a pun on ‘maintaining silence’ and ‘keeping mother’.

The giveaway is in the opening scene where a genteel English woman boards a train with a bag that oozes blood. The blood belongs to her dismembered husband and when she is packed off to jail, she asks: “Does this mean you won’t be serving tea?”

Those who are accustomed to seeing Atkinson’s Mr Bean shenanigans may be disappointed with his role here but he is still amusing as the vicar who is all engrossed in preparing his speech on God’s Mysterious Ways at a convention. Scott Thomas is in top form as the cheating wife, while Swayze is expectedly sleazy as the villain of the piece.

However, the star to watch out for is Tamsin Egerton whose performance here provides the lure for the younger generation. Directed by Niall Johnson, Keeping Mum is adapted from Richard Russo’s novel which is originally set in America. Those who are delighted by Four Weddings And A Funeral would definitely like this dark Brit effort that may ‘almost’ pass off as a feel good movie.


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