Keeping Mum
R1 - America - ThinkFilm
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak and Stevie McCleary (20th April 2007).
The Film

"Keeping Mum" is a pleasant little comedy that only seems to not deliver, it feels like it should, simply because it can't decide what it wants to be. It tends to float between being a quirky character piece, to an exaggerated satire populated with over the top caricatures.
Kristin Scott Thomas portrays the long suffering wife Gloria, who is bored with what her married life to the Vicar, played by Rowan Atkinson, has become. To that end she has begun an affair with her golfing instructor Lance (Patrick Swayze). The Vicar is too wound up in his work to notice any of this, nor notice his daughter Holly's (Tamsin Egerton) endless string of boyfriends and his son Peter's (Toby Parkes) taunting by schoolyard bullies. Enter Grace (Maggie Smith), their new housekeeper. She takes it upon herself to set things right-by any means necessary, although usually it turns out to be the same means. Blunt instruments work best. It's like Mary Poppins went seriously off-kilter along the way.
Interesting work is done by the cast. Kristin Scott Thomas is definitely above average and holds everything together, as this is primarily her story. However it's the two men in her life that really exemplify the two sides of what this film seemed to be aiming for.
Atkinson does a fine job as the understated Vicar. He exudes a sweet quality that leaves you feeling a lot of empathy for his struggles. It is his downplayed character that suits the film the best, I feel. And it's definitely better than "Mr. Bean's Holiday" (2007).
On the flip side, we have Swayze. It seems that 'The Swayze' came in to play a larger than life character, all lascivious and lecherous. Then again, he's the only American in the story, so maybe that's how the British think they really are. Still, here he seems out of place. His sexual puns are too labored and obvious. They come close to working but just don't seem to hit the mark.
That goes for a lot of the lower level humor that is used as well. A golf lesson can be sexually charged? Wow, I've never seen that before... "You worry about the ball; I'll worry about the hole." Indubitably. I could have done without such lines as that, given the tone of the film. Or at least what the tone appeared to be the majority of the time. When it focuses on the character's more subtle quirks is where it really hits its stride.
"Keeping Mum" could almost have been a quirky yet dark family film and yet some of the overt sexual puns, and the brief nudity from the daughter, really prevent it from being so. It was like it was trying to be all things for all types of people. Or they never fully decided what they wanted the film to actually be. And neither of those situations ever produces a home run. Also, 'The Swayze' in a package-hugging thong should never be seen by human eyes.
"Keeping Mum" is fun and it holds the attention. The second half definitely picks up the pace as the plotlines converge and there are a few surprises along the way as well. It's a nice little film that is entertaining, but could have easily been much better. In the end, it simply doesn't stand out as a whole, despite some nice performances. It is fun and sweet at times. But you won't miss it if you never see it.

Video

Presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic widescreen transfer is a cropped monstrosity. Think Film have done it again, first with "Tideland" (2005), you can read that review here and now with this film. The original ratio for this film is 2.35:1 but what we get is this 1.78:1 transfer. This is totally unacceptable, Think Film should have the presence of mind to release films in their intended ratios or simply just not release them at all! The left and right of the frame is needlessly chopped off and the image appears to be slightly zoomed in. But what really rubs salt in the wounds is that the bonus scenes in the extras section of the disc are presented in the correct 2.35:1 ratio. I don't even see a point in commenting on the quality of the image considering it's been cropped, the bottom line is if you're a fan of this film I suggest searching for an edition that preserves and respects the filmmaker's vision.

Audio

A single English Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track is included and aside from presenting the dialogue clearly and without distortion there isn't a lot to comment about this track. It's about as rudimentary as one gets, after all this is a dark comedy so an aggressive and dynamic mix is not what you should expect, but some subtle rear speaker activity would be nice but aside from the occasionally use and music it's fairly a front heavy mix and as a result feels a little on the flat side.
Optional subtitles are included in Spanish only.

Extras

First up is a feature-length audio commentary by writer/director Niall Johnson. Johnson talks about the 5 year process of getting the film made as he remains largely screen-specific with his comments. He delves into the shooting of scenes, provides positive feedback and admiration for his cast and also talks about the various locations used in the film as well as costumes among other things. He focuses at times on performances and the mannerism of the characters as he frantically tries to pack as much information into the track as possible. Johnson comes off as incredibly chatty and sometimes he talks far too fast you'll probably find yourself having to rewind just to be able to take it all in. Some of the more interesting moments of the track came at the end where he talks about the various titles the crew came up for the film. There's some good stuff in this track but only if you're a fan of this film, otherwise skip it.

A collection of bonus scenes is next and these can all be viewed with optional audio commentary by writer/director Niall Johnson who provides some context for the scenes and explains the reasons which they were omitted from the final version of the film. These scenes include:

- "Rosie And The Blood" which runs for 59 seconds, A young Rosie is shown the blood leaking from the trunk and is questioned by the police.
- "A Final Word About Golf" which runs for 57 seconds, Lance gets in a few more flirty lines to Gloria.
- "Gloria Puts Her Foot In It" runs for 44 seconds, on her way to Mr. Brown's house to complain about the dog she accidentally steps in some dog s**t.
- "Our First Look At Grace" runs for 34 seconds, this is an alternate version of Grace's introduction to Peter.
- "Football - Holly And Walter...Holly And Lance" runs for 1 minute 39 seconds, Holly can't bare to look at her father's miserable performance as a goalie and then is hit on by Lance.
- "In The Bedroom" runs for 59 seconds, Walter expresses concern that he can't seem to write his speech for the convention.
- "Lillian Again" runs for 59 seconds, Gloria hides the fact that it's Lance calling in this alternate version of the scene that cuts to Lance during the short conversation.
- "Gloria Gets Reflective" runs for 1 minute 19 seconds, after leaving Lance in the fisherman's cabin she reflects on her actions.
- "Dead To The World" runs for 52 seconds, Holly refers to her brother's slumber as being "dead to the world" which doesn't amuse Gloria.
- "Our Last Look At Grace" runs for 1 minute 29 seconds, at the train station Gloria is helped by a policeman carrying her bags.

A series or outtakes and bloopers are also included and are presented as a reel that runs for 6 minutes 17 seconds, this includes the usual fare such as flubbed lines, forgotten lines, missed cues and cast laughing in the middle of a shot.

"Walter in Goal" is an extended scene that runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds and sees Atkinson playing goalie really badly.

Next up is an alternate opening for the film which runs for 3 minutes 4 seconds and includes optional audio commentary by writer/director Niall Johnson, in his track he comments on the difference between thyis scene and the one featured in the film and also on why it was ultimately dropped. In this scene the opening train sequence is much longer and the discovery of the trunk is set up differently.

Also included is the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds.

Rounding out the extras are a series of bonus trailers for:

- "Candy" which runs for 2 minutes 7 seconds.
- "Off The Black" which runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds.
- "Life Of The Party" which runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds.
- "Tideland" which runs for 2 minutes 5 seconds.
- "Strangers With Candy" which runs for 2 minutes 24 seconds.

Packaging

The package also states that there is a making-of entitled "Big Trouble in Little Wallop" but this feature is not on the disc.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: F Audio: B- Extras: B Overall: C-

 


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