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Published: Friday, 11/3/2006

Movie review: Keeping Mum ***

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Maggie Smith stars as Grace Hawkins, a housekeeper who helps
a dysfunctional family achieve domestic bliss in Keeping Mum.
Maggie Smith stars as Grace Hawkins, a housekeeper who helps a dysfunctional family achieve domestic bliss in Keeping Mum.
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Keeping Mum is a strange little British comedy about a serial killer who takes a job as a housekeeper to a dysfunctional family and sets about whipping things into shape, much like a demented Mary Poppins.

The housekeeper, Grace Hawkins, is played by Dame Maggie Smith, and her lavender boucle coat, thick-soled shoes, and sprayed-into-submission curls make her look as if she's trying to imitate a garden gnome.

Grace is hired by the Goodfellow family, who don't know she's just been released from prison and don't realize the changes she will bring to them. What they do appreciate is the way she smooths things over.

The parents are Walter (Rowan Atkinson) and Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas). A vicar in the rural village of Little Wallop, he is known for his boring sermons, his ineptitude at soccer, and his absent-minded behavior, especially when it comes to his family. "You're a half-day behind the rest of us," Gloria remarks one evening, when Walter finally gets around to asking about his daughter's strange wardrobe.

Speaking of that daughter, 17-year-old Holly (Tamsin Egerton) lives through her libido, having sex with a succession of boyfriends that her parents can't keep straight. Her young brother, Petey (Toby Parkes), regularly gets trounced by the bullies at school.

Gloria is lonely, frustrated, and angry at everyone from the neighbor's dog that barks all night to the parishioners who demand her husband's attention to her out-of-control daughter to Walter himself, who is more concerned about writing a perfect speech for the vicars' convention than he is about paying attention to his wife.

For solace, she engages in a dalliance with a golf instructor, an American named Lance, who lives by the "promise her anything but get her in bed" philosophy.

Lance is played by Patrick Swayze as an over-the-top, reptilian lothario, and his performance is one of the funniest of the film.

As Grace sets out to help the Goodfellow family, the population of Little Wallop, which was only 57 to begin with, starts dropping.

Keeping Mum is more amusing than laugh-out-loud funny, and it bears a direct kinship to The Ladykillers (the Alec Guinness one, not the Tom Hanks one). The cast is delightful, particularly Atkinson as the gently clueless churchman who needs a few nudges from his housekeeper to open his eyes.

There is one big problem, however, and it has less to do with the film and more with the times in which we live.

These days, the thought of serial killers, even if they do look like Maggie Smith, isn't funny, and the jokes that hinge on Grace's proclivities are far more jarring than silly.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.

his ineptitude at soccer, and his absent-minded behavior, especially when it comes to his family. "You're a half-day behind the rest of us," Gloria remarks one evening, when Walter finally gets to ask about his daughter's strange wardrobe.

Speaking of that daughter, 17-year-old Holly (Tamsin Egerton) lives through her libido, having sex with a succession of boyfriends that her parents can't keep straight. Her young brother, Petey (Toby Parkes), regularly gets trounced by the bullies at school.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or419-724-6130.



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