Keeping Mum Review

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While his wife (Scott Thomas) is succumbing to the charms of her golf instructor (Swayze), oblivious Rev. Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson) worries about his speech for a forthcoming convention. Meanwhile, his daughter is sleeping around and his son’s being bu


Cosy sit-com sensibilities jar with attempted black humour in this British comedy: think The Vicar Of Dibley meets Serial Mom with the seams showing. Maggie Smith is the little old housekeeper whose dark past informs her methods of dealing with the problems that beset the household of Atkinson’s Rev. Walter Goodfellow (namely: a sexless marriage, a barking dog and some school bullies). But her sinister doings sit uneasily with the broad comedy that characterises the rest of the film, from Gloria’s fumblings with sleazy golf pro Lance (Swayze, an unlikely pastoral dweller) to Walter’s stuttering attempts to deliver a funny sermon.

There are a few strong sight gags — as Walter searches for religious jokes on the internet, we read and laugh along with him — and the odd one-liner (“Can I get you any?” enquires Gloria’s innocent young son Petey on hearing that his mother “isn’t getting any”). But much of the comedy feels like a lazy attempt to ape the success of (yawn) Four Weddings And A Funeral, as does the casting of Atkinson and Scott Thomas. And the film’s conclusion feels uncomfortably cynical in the context of such mainstream material.

Despite a likeable cast and bursts of wit, this fails to work its darker comic themes into its picture of flawed-but-loveable rural Britain. You’d be better off watching The Vicar Of Dibley.