Film review: 'Mum' darkness provides relief

Published: Friday, Oct. 27 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

KEEPING MUM — ** 1/2 — Kristin Scott Thomas, Rowan Atkinson, Maggie Smith; rated R (vulgarity, profanity, brief sex, violence, brief nudity, brief gore).

Not to give anything crucial away, but the title "Keeping Mum" turns out to be a bad pun.

And yet it's one of the more clever things about this British comedy, which doesn't seem nearly as committed to its main concept as it should be. While there's some welcome darkness to the material, there's also some unwelcome sleaze and a gradual lightening up that doesn't seem genuine.

Still, it is nice to see a reunion of two members of the cast of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," Kristin Scott Thomas and Rowan Atkinson — the latter again playing a clergyman.

In "Keeping Mum," Thomas stars as Gloria Goodfellow, the wife of Atkinson's character, Walter Goodfellow, a pastor in a small English community. Gloria is feeling emotionally neglected, which explains why she's been taking "private lessons" from Lance (Patrick Swayze), a U.S. golf pro. But there's no real contentment in that either.

In fact, the one really good thing that's happened to Gloria lately is the arrival of Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith), the Goodfellows' new housekeeper. Once Grace appears, Gloria's bigger problems start disappearing — such as the yapping neighbor dog that's been waking her up. However, that begs the question of just how the seemingly sweet Grace is making these things happen.

This dark comedy does provide a breath of fresh air in contrast to all the stale and cloyingly cutesy comedies Hollywood produces.

For a change, Atkinson gets to play a real character instead of just a goofy caricature. His bungling but well-meaning man of the cloth is the most sympathetic person in this film.

And Smith has fun with her character, a possibly murderous Mary Poppins with the best of intentions.

"Keeping Mum" is rated R for sexual material and language (including innuendo, slang and profanity), brief simulated sex and other sexual contact (mostly overheard), some athletic violence and implied violence, flashes of female nudity and some brief gore. Running time: 103 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com

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