The Big White

The Big White


Reviewed by: Moominkat

This quirky comedy-drama is set in the frozen wastes of Alaska and, despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to Fargo, both in style and content, it is still enjoyable. It was also reminiscent of Mystery, Alaska - a film about a quarrelsome hick ice-hockey team - but in fact just about any TV series or movie involving people living in the wilds of Canada will spring to mind. Don't let that put you off. This film is funny, with slapstick and moments of off-beat humour, and has real drama and a gentle sweetness running through it.

Paul Burnell (Robin Williams) is married to Margaret (Holly Hunter) and they a make a lovely, if rather dull and frowsty couple. He's doing his best to make life as good as it can be, given that Margaret suffers from a combination of undiagnosed mental illnesses that none of the experts seem to be able to diagnose.

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She displays on and off Tourette's with a side serving of pottiness. In the extras section, Williams describes Margaret as "part ferret, part child", which just about captures her. Her illness has drained Paul's resources, he's at his wits end as to how he'll continue to pay for her treatment, his travel business is going under and he can't even pay the electricity bill on his shop. So he decides to cash in on the life assurance policy he'd taken out on his long-missing brother, hell-raiser Raymond (Woody Harrelson).

Unfortunately, as he's informed curtly by Ted (Giovanni Ribisi) the insurance claims adjuster, no body equals no payout. Raymond's been missing for five years and death can only be assumed after seven. So when Paul comes across an unknown frozen body in a dumpster in the car park outside his shop, (cached earlier by two hitmen), he's desperate enough to take it home to dispose of later, so that the body can be found and he can make the claim. Naturally, weaselly Ted's suspicious. He makes life hell for Paul, who finds himself running the gauntlet of Ted, the hitmen and his long-lost brother, who reads about his demise in a newspaper and comes home to collect his share of the payout.

It's a gentle farce, which works because the characters are so nicely conveyed, you do hope things will work out. And it's fabulous listening to a foul-mouthed Holly Hunter delivering her lines with aplomb: "Say hello to your slut mother" she tells the paper boy with a sweet smile when he collects his money. And that's the politest example.

Reviewed on: 10 Aug 2006
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Black comedy set in Alaska revolving around a death, a cover up, a swindle and a vendetta.
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David Stanners ***

Director: Mark Mylod

Writer: Collin Friesen

Starring: Robin Williams, Holly Hunter, Giovanni Ribisi, Tim Blake Nelson, W. Earl Brown, Woody Harrelson, Alison Lohman

Year: 2005

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Canada, New Zealand, USA


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