Keeping Mum

Most people today know Dame Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall from the various Harry Potter movies. It's not a bad thing, but it doesn't show the range of acting that she is capable of, or what a wonderful actor she actually is. For this, they need to hunt down a smaller movie like Keeping Mum, where Smith (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ladies in Lavender) can cut loose. Keeping Mum is a light-hearted dark comedy, a small movie that sneaks up on people. It's a bit lightweight, but good fun to watch, especially considering its heavy caliber cast.

Smith is Grace Hawkins, a grandmother housekeeper who enters into the Goodfellow household. The Goodfellows live in the small parish of Little Wallop, where Reverend Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson, Love Actually, Johnny English) is the local vicar. Walter's duties at church, and his desire to write a good sermon, keep him from his duties at home. His wife Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas, Gosford Park, Life as a House) is having an affair with Lance (Patrick Swayze, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, Waking Up in Reno), her American golf instructor. Their daughter Holly (Tamsin Egerton) has a steady stream of boyfriends, and their son Petey (Toby Parkes) is constantly on the receiving end of the local bullies.

Oddly enough, things begin changing for the better once Hawkins arrives. Gloria can finally get a good night's sleep because the neighbor's dog, who was barking continuously, is now mysteriously silent and missing. Slowly, people that somehow cause tension within the Goodfellow seem to disappear mysteriously. It's all the work of Hawkins, whom writer/director Niall Johnson (The Big Swap) and co-writer Richard Russo (The Ice Harvest, Twilight) introduce as a murderer. In a quick prologue, a young Hawkins goes to prison after killing her husband and his lover, dismembering them, and calmly putting them into a large trunk. Thirty years alter, the trunk appears again in the Goodfellow household.

It's a dark concept played for sly laughs, mostly due to the fantastic cast. It's pretty ridiculous imagining an elderly woman going around murdering local characters, but that is what makes it funny. Smith scoots around with a strange look in her eyes, and Johnson and Russo keep the actual murders off camera. Thomas and Atkinson are also nice. They don't have large roles, but they do a good supporting role. Attinson is doing his usual shtick, but tones down the physical comedy as not to be distracting. Thomas is in a very interesting role - a comedy. She usually sticks with heavy dramas, and this is a definite change of pace for her that works well, because she knows when to play up the drama, and when to play up the comedy. Keeping Mum does move a bit slowly around the middle, but by the time the relative mayhem occurs at the end, everybody will be smiling.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for sexual situations and some strong language.

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