Plots with a View

(aka Undertaking Betty, Nick Hurran, UK, 2002)


Every few years, it seems, we in Australia are going to see a cute comedy about death set in Wales, Scotland or Ireland. It is the Waking Ned Devine (1998) syndrome: light-hearted tales of ordinary folk attempting to get rich or get free are surrounded by dark little reminders of mortality, sickness, the general muckiness of getting old, and the generally base nature of most people's motives.

It is no wonder that Australia is a prime market for such fare, since the latest in this never-ending cycle, Plots with a View, reminded me more than anything of local exercises in fey black comedy like Mushrooms (1995).

As directed by Nick Hurran (Virtual Sexuality, 1999), at least the tone and pace of Plots with a View is sprightly. Two plot lines elegantly collide. Boris (Alfred Molina), a shy and lonely mortician, has been in love since childhood with Betty (Brenda Blethyn, as twittery as ever) – and she eventually reciprocates that love.

Betty, however is married. Little does she realise that her abominable husband, local councillor Hugh (Robert Pugh), is stepping out with tarty Meredith (Naomi Watts). And at the very moment that Meredith tempts Hugh into considering killing his wife, Boris is trying to convince Betty to play dead in order for them to depart unnoticed after her funeral.

Those who criticise the "quirky" trend in Australian comedy should start targeting the United Kingdom, and fast. Plots with a View, which comes complete with a Fred and Ginger pastiche, stirs a little enjoyment from its wacky cast: comedian Lee Evans grimacing away, Miriam Margolyes as twins, Watts in pantomime mode, Christopher Walken (with a ridiculous hairstyle) making a meal of his Americanness.

MORE Hurran: Girls' Night

© Adrian Martin March 2004

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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