Keeping Mum

rowan atkinson

Keeping Mum
Made in: Great Britain
Language: English
Director: Niall Johnson
Starring: Rowan Atkinson, Patrick Swayze, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, Tamsin Egerton, Tobey Parkes, Emilia Fox, Liz Smith
Year: 2005

Synopsis: In the tiny English town of Little Wallop, problems are brewing in the family of Reverend Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson). He takes himself too seriously, has little self-confidence, and is a complete bore. The passion in his marriage has nearly evaporated, and his wife Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas) is having a secret affair with Lance (Patrick Swayze), her sleazy golf instructor.

Then there are the children. Youngest son Petey (Toby Parkes), having no backbone like his dad, is repeatedly bullied at school. And 17 year-old Holly (Tamsin Egerton), much to her mother's chagrin, can't stop screwing boys.

But things begin to change when the Goodfellows hire Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith) as their new housekeeper. Grace comes off as a charming, harmless, and cheerful old lady.

Things in the Longfellow home begin looking up a bit, and it starts after the neighbor's irritating dog "runs away." And then, the dog's inconsiderate owner suddenly takes a trip "down under," which most easily misinterpret as a vacation to Australia.

It turns out that Grace not only has a hidden anarchy-streak, but a dark secret as well. As Gloria and Holly catch on to what she's doing, they learn that her connection to their family is much closer than they first realized.

The Good: Keeping Mum is a very well-written, witty story full of clever (and sick) jokes. All the major plot elements and twists come together nicely. The cast is fun, too.

Rowan Atkinson easily pulls off the role of a stuffy minister without being anti-religious, and Maggie Smith is delightful as the quick-witted housekeeper. Although it's a different role for Atkinson overall, he does have a few "Mr. Bean" moments.

And surprisingly, Patrick Swayze doesn't appear out of place in this British Comedy. I find that commendable given the fact that his resume includes, shall we say, "slightly less sophisticated" fare such as Road House, Next of Kin, and Point Break.

The black humor works very well, and you'll get a sense of guilty pleasure as you anticipate Maggie Smith's next act of mayhem. But despite the comedic aspects, Keeping Mum has its touching moments too. You'll genuinely care about the characters, and what's not to like? They're so...British. Except for Patrick Swayze.

The Bad: Although Rowan Atkinson does a good job, Keeping Mum doesn't showcase the full extent of his comedic abilities. Whether the humor is subtle or overt, verbal or physical, he's capable of much more. Even though he's not the main character here, I felt he could have been given some more "comedic slack" without becoming a show-stealer.

Who would like this film: Keeping Mum is for you if you're a fan of British comedies and appreciate the dry subtleties of British humor. Fans of Rowan Atkinson should be generally pleased, but should realize that the main focus of the movie is the plot and not him. Overall, it's a classy, amusing film with just the right amount of bad behavior.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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