Keeping Mum


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What could be more traditional that a country vicar, a village called Little Wallop and a granny who bumps people off? Wrinklies will catch the drift. "Sounds like Kind Hearts And Coronets," they squeal. "Jolly D!"

Steady on, old things. It may sound like that, but it doesn't play like that. Would the Kind Hearted crowd have worried their aristocratic heads about marital performance in the bedroom, or teenage kicks in the campervan?

England has forgotten Jerome K Jerome. Now it's school bullies and a stalker filming 16-year-old Holly (Tamsin Egerton) undressing. Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas), the vicar's wife, is so sexually undernourished that she's a bitch to her daughter and contemplating running off with Lance (Patrick Swayze), the golf pro, because she's gagging for it and Walter (Rowan Atkinson), her husband, hasn't noticed. She says the F-word, too, quite often, which is a sign of middle-aged desperation.

Three quarters of an hour in and the laughs are stillborn. Atkinson is playing it straight; Swayze looks SO gay; Scott Thomas does nightmare wife to a tee. If Maggie Smith doesn't come up trumps, this hand is lost. She arrives as Grace, their new housekeeper - what vicar, with a perfectly healthy Mrs Vicar and two normal children can afford a housekeeper on a C of E salary? - and spends her time trying to make things better. Is she a saint?

Making things better includes getting rid of people who are interfering with the perfect family by being difficult, or annoying, and since Grace is a serial killer, who looks like Miss Marple, it's no trouble. She must have a touch of the Nanny McPhees, because without magical powers, how could a woman of her age kill a grown man with a garden spade and then carry him to the pond and dump his body, suitably weighted, into the murky depths without having a turn, or being spotted?

Near the end, things start to improve, but it has taken this long and there are no laugh-out-louds, merely the hint of a chuckle. Sex is very much a theme. Walter almost loses his wife because of it. Holly can't get enough. Lance thinks of nothing else. Gloria needs a regular supply, or she gets ratty. Grace killed first when her husband ran off with a floosie. But none of this is funny. It's embarrassing, or sad.

Is this the death of British comedy?

Reviewed on: 02 Dec 2005
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Keeping Mum packshot
Sex and a serial killing granny seek gratification in Little Wallop.
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Director: Niall Johnson

Writer: Niall Johnson, Richard Russo

Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Emilia Fox, Liz Smith, Tamsin Egerton, James Booth, Tobey Parkes

Year: 2005

Runtime: 103 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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