Thursday, January 22, 2009

Death at a Funeral

"Death at a Funeral" (Frank Oz, 2007) I grabbed "Death at a Funeral" because, even though he may not choose the best of projects, Oz is a good craftsman who can eke out laughs from fairly flimsy material. And it featured two of my current favorite character actors, Peter Dinklage and Alan Tudyk. Neither one disappoints with (eventually) broad strokes of antic genius. Nor can one be disappointed by Matthew Mcfadyen (the glum Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright's "Pride and Prejudice"), who shoulders the burden of the lead role (as the oldest son who is hosting a service for his late father), as well as Rupert Graves as the ex-patriate brother/successful novelist that brother Daniel admires and envies.*

But it's a funeral, and so complications arise.** There's the powerful psychedelic in the valium bottle, the needy one-night stand who shows up to try and re-connect, the germ-a-phobe, the immobile old guy in the wheelchair, the vicar with other duties to attend to, the family jealousies and petulant arguments, and the stranger in the leather jacket...with the photographs. Just jotting off that checklist will set in mind all sorts of mischievous complications, and they're all there waiting to be uncorked in a room of stiff upper lips and trembling lower ones. If hilarity doesn't ensue, you can at least count on "inappropriate behavior."

Ultimately, it all turns out well for nearly everyone (except, of course, the corpse) and just as old wounds are ripped open, they're also neatly zippered up in the end. It's a pleasant little film that gets there through a lot of sick humor. What more could you want from a funeral?

* Gamers will wonder why Keeley Hawes sounds so familiar—she's the voice of "Lara Croft: Tomb-Raider" on video games.

** Having been to (and host of) a couple of funerals, I wonder why no one ever has done anything with the odd phenomenon of the reactions of a deceased's family (who have had mourning time) to seeing so many old friends (who have not), and those friends' shocked reaction to the bereaved's happy tone at seeing so many familiar, downcast faces. It is a funeral, after all.

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