2005 - United Kingdom - 103 minutes
Writers - Richard Russo and Niall Johnson
Director - Niall Johnson
My Rating - 5 of 5 Stars
The British have a way about them when it comes to black comedy, and this film offers up the best and one of the most entertaining examples of that special talent.
In the beginning, we see a delightful young woman on her way to find the perfect house in the country that can become the home of the perfect family. One unfortunate aspect of her journey is that she is carrying the dismembered bodies of her husband and his lover in her trunk. She gets shipped off to the mental institution where she is to reside until she is no longer a danger to society.
Jump ahead some forty-three years, and we are introduced to the Goodfellow family. The Reverend Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson) has become bogged down in the day-to-day duties of his post. His wife, Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas), has become frustrated with her role and is seeking adventure in the person of her golf instructor, Lance (Patrick Swayze). Their son (Toby Parkes) is timid and picked-upon by the school bullies, and their daughter (Tamsin Egerton) is having sex with just about every boy in sight. Enters their new housekeeper (It doesn't take a rocket scientist to derive who this might be.) and life, almost immediately starts to get better for everyone in the family.
Grace (Maggie Smith) is the picture of decorum and makes it her goal to eliminate - in one way or another - every obstacle that is keeping this from being the perfect family in the perfect home. Most of these obstacles are dispatched in a less than gentle fashion - thus the delicious black humor of the film.
Of course, all of this nonsense could not be pulled off if it were not for superior acting and subtle direction. Maggie Smith glows as the homicidal housekeeper with a heart of gold. Kristin Scott Thomas gives us a realistic view of a frustrated wife who wisely comes to term with her particular situation - no matter how bizarre. Patrick Swayze is a sexy and robust lecher after his British prey. Tamsin Egerton is beautiful, extremely sexy, and wise beyond her years as the daughter. The surprising performance, for me, was that of Rowan Atkinson. I've always viewed him as the broad comic, but here, he is restrained in introspective - an excellent performance. It's always been said that comics are the best actors, and his performance certainly enforces that old saw.
If you are looking for a couple of hours of mindless but total entertainment with a little bit of a bite, I recommend Keeping Mum.