Volume 76, Number 19 | September 27 - October 3, 2006

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Little Miss Sunshine” (+)

This film opened a few weeks ago, so I was surprised that the theater was 90 percent full when I saw it last weekend. I went because several people said that while it is not a brilliant movie by any means, it is good fun.

The Hoover family drives from Albuquerque to Redondo Beach in their dilapidated van to enter 10-year-old Olive in a beauty and talent contest. The likeable preppy father, Richard (Greg Kinnear), constantly rails against quitters. The mother, Sheryl (Toni Collette), is the binding force. Son Dwayne (Paul Dano) has decided to communicate only through written notes until his dream of entering the U.S. Air Force is realized.  Uncle Frank (Steve Carell) is recovering from a suicide attempt; Olive, the would-be beauty queen is very precious; and grandpa (Alan Arkin) is obscene in his language and unbelievably candid. The acting on the part of this ensemble cast is uncommonly good.

The family must arrive at the Ramada Inn to register Olive by a certain time, and numerous events along the way delay their arrival. The children in the beauty pageant conjure up images of the murdered Jon Binet Ramsey who had the face of a 20-year-old woman when dressed for competition.   

The movie is a farce, comedy, slapstick and occasionally moving. While it is not a work of art, it does provide the audience with a lot of pleasure and a few belly laughs.  When I saw it, the audience applauded at the end, which is a rare reaction to films these days.

Keeping Mum (-)

This film received an interesting review from Stephen Holden in The New York Times. He wrote, “The dark British comedy ‘Keeping Mum’ exudes the comfy familiarity of a vintage episode of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ stretched into a feature-length film. All that’s missing is a mordant epilogue by the master of suspense himself reassuring us with lofty comic hauteur that justice will eventually be visited upon the guilty.” The stars of the film, Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson, Kristin Scott Thomas and Patrick Swayze, were appealing so I went to see it — a terrible choice on my part.

The plot involves an opening scene marked 43 years earlier. The sweet, demure and pregnant Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith) is arrested on a train for concealing in her trunk the bodies of her husband and his mistress.  She is quickly sent to a mental institution for the criminally insane.

A half-century later in the small English village of Little Wallop, we meet the local vicar, Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson), his wife Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas), their very sexually active adolescent daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton), and their son Petey (Toby Parkes). We also meet Lance (Patrick Swayze) an American golf teacher who becomes the lover of the Vicar’s wife. Grace, obviously having been released from the institution, is employed as the vicar’s housekeeper. From that point on, the story involves a series of criminal assaults and deaths, sexual flings engaged in separately by mother and daughter, and a denouement that stretches your imagination beyond belief. 

The script, intended to be a comedy bordering on farce, fails miserably. Maggie Smith, who always gives a terrific performance, is terrible in this film, and I wondered why she allowed herself to be used so badly. The only decent performance is that of Rowan Atkinson. This is one movie to stay away from.

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