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Brandon Judell

Keeping Mum: A Killer of a Mother Figure

by Brandon Judell

Just when I thought I'd bore myself to death, having to tell yet another inquirer that the only must-see comedy of the moment was "Little Miss Sunshine," an almost equally fine option has arisen.

"Keeping Mum" is a delicious British take on the dysfunctional household saga. Yes, in the tiny parish of Little Wallop (population: 57), everything is not going well for yet another nuclear family, this time a vicar's.

Dad, Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson), has apparently lost both his sense of humor and his sex drive in his search for God. Mom (Thomas) is losing control of her family in-between flirtatious bouts with her smarmy golf instructor (Swayze). Additionally, daughter Holly (Egerton) is losing her virginity daily to various local boys, while younger brother Petey (Parkes) is being bullied at school. Add a neighbor's constantly barking mutt and a doddering old lady (Liz Smith) constantly bothering the vicar about chaos within the church's flower-arranging committee, and you realize life couldn't get much worse.

But then God works in many mysterious ways. Deciding to be nicer to the Goodfellows than He was to Job, the Lord sends along a savior, a Mary Poppins of sorts, named Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith). This highly moral nanny, who unbeknownst to all concerned parties, is an unrepentant murderess who's just been released from a prison for the criminally insane after 40 or so years of incarceration.

Well, as quickly as Grace settles into the Goodfellow household, the family's problems begin to dissipate, starting off with the dematerialization of the once-barking-all-night doggy. Is there a connection?

Superbly acted, especially by Thomas, Dame Smith, and for once a restrained Atkinson ("Mr. Bean"), the film's subtle black humor will charm you so much you just might want to rename the vicar's parish Big Wallop.

Director/co-writer: Niall Johnson
Co-writer: Richard Russo
Cast: Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Dame Maggie Smith, Patrick Swayze, Liz Smith, Tamsin Egerton, Tobey Parkes, James Booth

Copyright © Brandon Judell 2006

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