Sunday, February 24, 2008

Death At A Funeral (Alliance Films) Out this coming Tuesday, February 26th. (*******7/10)

Death At a Funeral feels so "indie" that it makes me cringe. However, it makes me cringe with laughter, and that, I think, is OK. It's a British comedy in the grand tradition of low budget British comedies, the idea that humour can be found in even the least-likely-to-be-funny situation, in this case a funeral. Rupert Graves and Matthew McFayden star as Daniel and Robert, brothers who are hosting their father's funeral. There is of course a good deal of sibling rivalry, but they are attempting to set this aside in the interests of their family, and specifically their mother, who is grieving with them. Many other interesting characters show up, including wheelchair-bound, angry old men, drug users, creepy stalkers and the standard cast one would expect from a British comedy such as this one. People get accidentally "dosed" with hallucinogenic drugs, they strip naked, other people end up with poop on themselves, and the standard funeral-comedy pratfalls ensue. If such a thing exists.

Overall, there is not much new about this film. It is well-written, but not exceedingly so. It is well-acted, but none of the performances are earth-shattering. Well, except for one. Once again, I am absolutely blown away by the talent of Peter Dinklage. Dinklage is probably best-known as the children's book author who beats up Will Ferrell in Elf. He is a dwarf, and is therefore typecast. Hollywood is very good at casting regular actors as tiny people, (think Martin Short in that god-awful movie Clifford) but there is little they can do to cast dwarves as regular-size people. But Dinklage has a massive talent, and it would be great to see him in roles other than that of a little person. But of course, this won't happen, so he must wait for appropriate roles in order to shine. The first of those roles was in the terrific film The Station Agent in 2003, a role which resulted in a lot of critical acclaim for Dinklage, but a very small audience. He was wonderful in that movie, and he is, once again, the best part of Death At A Funeral.

He plays the former lover of the deceased old man, and attempts to blackmail the brothers into giving him some of the inheritance money. Either they write him a cheque, or he will show everyone the salacious pictures of their homosexual relationship. This leads to many standard comic pratfalls, including another accidental drug-dosing. I won't ruin the film by explaining how it came about, but the scene where Dinklage emerges from the coffin in the middle of the service is one of the funniest I have seen in a long time. My step-son made me rewind and play it several times, it's that good. Death At A Funeral would be an extremely standard indie British comedy were it not for the talents of Dinklage, but his involvement raises the level of this movie from merely "standard" to "quite good". Perhaps some day the movie industry will find a way to get Dinklage more involved in feature films, but I don't think that's likely. I think the best we can hope for is that his talent, now so well recognized, will be the catalyst for film makers to start writing parts designed specifically for him, and perhaps we will see dozens more excellent indie films with real roles for Dinklage and other dwarves in the near future.

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