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dir Adrian Shergold
scr Tony Pitts
prd Kevin Proctor, Mark Vennis
with Maxine Peake, Paddy Considine, Stephen Graham, Alun Armstrong, Tony Pitts, Christine Bottomley, Macy Shackleton, Lindsey Coulson, Hebe Beardsall, Kevin Eldon, John Bishop, Vic Reeves
release UK 20.Apr.18
Force of nature: Peake
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
This is a sharply well-made drama about a woman going against the current in her culture. It's beautifully filmed and performed with energy and attitude. On the other hand, for a movie about a stand-up comic, it's relentlessly dour. There are some riotous moments along the way, and the acting is riveting enough to hold the interest all the way through, but the overall tone is seriously grim.
In the North of England, Funny Cow (Peake) has always found herself standing up to the expectations others put on her. As a young girl (Shackleton), she dispatches both her violent father (Graham) and school bullies by deploying her powerful skill with words against both physical and verbal assaults. And in her marriage to Bob (Pitts) and romance with Angus (Considine), she asserts her distinct personality. For a woman with such a sharp tongue, stand-up comedy offers an even broader canvas to work with as she's mentored by club veteran Lenny (Armstrong).
The film is directed with a lovely sense of the period, which swirls back and forth through this otherwise unnamed woman's life without ever losing the audience. Clever details continually make it clear where we are in her story, augmented with a lurid uses of both the colour red and her increasingly enormous hair. This woman's fierce individuality shines through all of this, winning the audience with her bracing honesty and lacerating sarcasm.
Peake dives fully into the role, a force of nature who unapologetically refuses to take the expected route through her life, which of course puts her in opposition to every man she encounters. This includes the sensitive Angus, a terrific against-type role for the versatile Considine, and the shattered Lenny, beautifully played by Armstrong to echo the fading male-dominated stand-up world. Graham is also strong in the dual role of her horrible father and, later, quietly ineffectual brother.
Part of the problem here is that each man seems to be a different male type that this woman needs to triumph over. And as her mother, Bottomley and later Coulson do little besides reveal what she might have been had she gone the way society told her to: shut up and take it, then drown your pain in a bottle of whiskey. When Funny Cow is on stage, she is genuinely, riotously hilarious. And perhaps it's the point that she struggles to find an appreciative audience among her friends and family. But it makes the movie rather hard-going.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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