We all want to believe that our deceased friends and family were wonderful, flawless people so we can look back on their lives with the feeling that they accomplished something and left the world a better place with their passing. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, the lengths that some people will go to protect their late kin’s good name.
We open onto a beautiful house in the English countryside where the living room is all set up for a funeral service to celebrate the life of Daniel’s (Matthew Macfadyan) father. Unfortunately absolutely everything seems to be going wrong. The men from the funeral home show up with little time to spare…but with the wrong body. A near-collision on the road puts Simon (Alan Tudyk) on edge so his fiancé gives him a Valium from someone else’s bottle…which turns out not to be Valium at all. The best friend is running late after forgetting to pick up a cantankerous uncle, and to top it all off a stranger no one has ever seen before (Peter Dinklage) has shown up for the service…along with pictures of his affair with the deceased and a demand for money.
Daniel and his brother Robert (Rupert Graves) are prepared to go to great lengths to keep this information secret from their mother, preferring that she believe her husband remained true to her until death. How to get rid of a troublesome stranger that everyone MUST have noticed? Why not tie him up and hide him? Why not give him a few Valium to keep him calm? Mix in an eccentric collection of family members and you have one hilarious afternoon.
After a recent death in the family this movie was just the fix I’ve needed. My family has always been one that tries to look at the lighter side of any death and have held memorial services with much merriment and alcoholic beverages, but this last one was one that none of us were able to make light of and has had everyone down for a while. For this reason I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a comedy centering around a funeral (an episode of The Simpsons showing Sideshow Bob’s funeral made me cry) but it sounded entertaining and a friend who enjoys a similar flavor of comedy as myself sang its praises so I figured it was worth a shot.
I have to say I was extremely impressed. I’ve always enjoyed a good morbid comedy but my other half prefers light-hearted, empty-headed slapsticks, it’s very rarely we can find something that so skillfully strikes a balance between the two types of comedy. I’d previously only ever heard of Frank Oz in conjunction with Star Wars or the Muppets but apparently he’s a skilled director as well because this production was certainly well put-together for maximum hilarity in the time given.
This entire film takes place in one afternoon in the house where the funeral service is being held with only a brief time beforehand showing various guests on their way to the service. I once heard a complaint that British humor is too dry but rest assured that that comment doesn’t apply in any way to this film…any kind of dysfunction you can imagine has been woven into this movie that can only be described as a comedic character study that laughs in the face of the gravity involved with the loss of a loved one.
The acting was very good which impressed me and also surprised me since I’ve only ever heard of about a third of the actors but each was extremely fitting for the role they had to play. There is little detail about each character save a fact or two about each that helps explain their place in the scheme of things, any more would have needlessly bogged down the film and made it overly tedious.
Overall this is one of the best morbid comedies I’ve ever seen (though still not quite up to Love Comes to the Executioner in my mind, but a close second) that’s hilarious and suitable for older kids who can see a man’s nude backside and a bit of bodily function humor.