Keeping Mum
directed by Niall Johnson
(Azure, 2005)

Mom Gloria is hiding her escalating flirtation with her sleazy golf instructor. Daughter Holly is flitting from Mark to David to Grant faster than even Mom can keep tabs. Son Peter is the constant target of school bullies.

It wouldn't take much to snap Rev. Walter Goodfellow's home life apart -- save for the appearance of a little grace.

Sweet and diminutive, new housekeeper Grace is as English as a cup of tea which, naturally, is her specialty. But you should know when Dame Maggie Smith steps on screen that there's more backbone to Grace than you may imagine.

If dark English comedies aren't your thing, 2005's Keeping Mum will be an exercise in DVD-rental disaster. Ditto if you're expecting Rowan Atkinson to reprise his broadly bumbling Mr. Bean in his portrayal of Vicar Goodfellow.

Instead, Keeping Mum has a distinctly British mix of innuendo and innocence.

Poor Vicar Goodfellow is fumbling through writing an uninspired speech to be given at an upcoming religious convention. And while he's not suffering from a crisis of faith, exactly, he is suffering from a crisis of inspiration -- religious and otherwise.

That leaves his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) sleepless, thanks to the neighbor's barking dog, bewildered by her daughter's raging libido and totally open to the advances of the unsavory and aptly named Lance (a very bravely attired Patrick Swayze).

Shortly after Grace's appearance in the Goodfellow household, activity in the normally staid (on the surface) village slowly comes to order -- but how much of that is Grace's doing, and why, is the source of much of Keeping Mum's humor.

Still, dark humor requires more depth than a straight comedy. It requires comedy that's in the service of a bigger point -- and here, screenwriters Richard Russo and Niall Johnson ably deliver. With more up its sleeve than you might at first assume, Keeping Mum is a movie that doesn't deserve to be kept secret.

review by
Jen Kopf

2 February 2008

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