Matthew Macfadyen’s newest movie was released in the US on August 17. Death at a Funeral is a comedic farce directed by Frank Oz, probably best known as the voice of Muppets Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy as well as that cute intergalactic sage Yoda, but also well respected as the director of such feature films as The Dark Crystal, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Little Shop of Horrors, several Muppet movies, and the remake of The Stepford Wives among many others. Aside from Matthew the movie stars Peter Dinklage, Alan Tudyk, Keeley Hawes (Matthew’s real-life wife), Rupert Graves, Kris Marshall, and a host of other brilliant English actors who I am afraid I was not familiar with, but nonetheless enjoyed. Earning solid B’s from critics around the globe, DAAF is destined to become an esteemed addition to the list of excellently rendered independent films.
But what did I think?
Naturally, as a card carrying member of the Matthew Macfadyen group of admirers (Not a fact, but if there was a card I would be toting it, I can assure you!), I had to see this film. Now, let me clarify: I have taken it as a serious task to view as many of Matthew’s performances as I possibly can, even those that were uncomfortable. (Secret Life, anyone?) Still, there are a few I have missed either because I cannot attain the DVD in the US or because the subject matter does not interest me. I am not THAT much of a fanatic! grin DAAF, however, did intrigue me. I am familiar with Frank Oz’s work, I have adored Alan Tudyk since A Knight’s Tale and Firefly/Serenity, and the story sounded entertaining. Add to that the recommendation from a few gals I know who have been lucky enough to catch the movie at screenings, and I was pretty excited. However, I did fear the tone may be too dark or the humor too sordid. Plus, and I apologize beforehand to my UK friends, English humor often escapes me entirely.
So, with measured enthusiasm I headed to the big city where it was playing, dragging my semi-interested but mostly tolerant of my MM obsession 19 year-old daughter along, and sat down with the plan to at the very least bask in gazing at Matthew’s handsome face and shiver at the soothing tones of his voice. Well, I got all that and much more!
No, Matthew did not shed his clothing. J That delight was left to Alan Tudyk! Rather the pleasure was derived at how funny this movie was! I laughed perhaps not the hardest I ever have, but quite a bunch.
Matthew is the star, and I know he can do excellent comedy, but here he was the straight man amid the madness. He was fabulous! I am partial, I freely admit, but I honestly do believe his performance incredible. You understand his affection toward his deceased father even though he does not verbally express it until the very end; you gradually see him unraveling as everything goes wrong with his carefully planned funeral; and then you observe his strength grow as he finally finds the way to pull it all together. Brilliant! His Daniel is the everyman that we all know in our lives; the average guy that does nothing particularly remarkable, but is simply kind and decent. British or American, we can relate to him. My love for this actor and his talent increases exponentially with each part I see him in, but I will wax eloquent on that at another time. This review is of the movie!
As wonderful as Matthew is, I cannot say he steals the show. Every last person cast is pitch-perfect in the role given them. Every odd-ball character imaginable is here and the finely wrought script weaves their individual stories and antics together amazingly. I honestly did not see a bad performance anywhere. The humor is crisp and toned. On one or two occasions it crossed the line into grossness, but those moments were brief and rapidly steered to higher plains. It is a farce with slight slapstick moments and absurdity, yet it all seems totally plausible. Nothing is so wildly over-the-top that you cannot imagine it transpiring. There is even a mild moral to the tale, although you are not beaten over the head with it. The driving force is to have fun. And after all, as Gene Shalit said, FUN is the first part of Funeral!
I highly recommend this movie, Matthew Macfadyen fan or not. It will not rock your world, but you will walk out of the theater with a smile on your face and chuckles that sporadically escape hours later as you recall a line. My daughter loved it, and that says it all!