Thursday, March 19, 2009

Undertaking Betty (UK, 2002)

(Trailer.) Undertaking Betty, a romantic comedy, tells the tale of one Betty Rhys-Jones (Brenda Blethyn), the unassuming and well-to-do housewife of the womanizing and unsympathetic town counsellor Hugh Rhys-Jones (Robert Pugh) in a small Welsh town. She falls in love with the local undertaker, Boris Plots (Alfred Molina), while organizing the funeral of her mother-in-law from hell Dilys Rhys-Jones (Menna Trussler), who has choked to death on bran flakes. Boris, an unassuming man, has experienced but two major disappointments in his life: His undying love since childhood for Betty, and the fact that he never became a ballroom dancer. While Hugh Rhys-Jones is out bonking his secretary Meredith Mainwaring (Naomi Watts), Boris and Betty virtually dance into each other’s hearts, but Betty, being the refined woman that she is, is unable to divorce her husband. So the two of them decide that Betty must die – or at least be assumed dead – and be buried, and then they can go off dancing into the sunset. Complications include the town’s other undertaker, an American named Frank Featherbed (Christopher Walken), a showman at heart that specializes in “showy” funerals and would like nothing more than to get rid of the opposition. Just when everything seems to be working out, Betty finds out not only that her husband was a philandering pig but that Meredith even tried to poison her. With that, the cruise ship to warmer waters gets delayed…
Undertaking Betty (2002) is yet another mild and pleasant piece of well-acted comic fluff from Nick Hurran, an English specialist for, well, lightweight and well-acted comic fluff. Sometimes his films are a little more tragically humorous, as is Girls' Night (1998), sometimes they are a bit more brainless, as is Virtual Sexuality (1999/trailer), but in general his films are rather well made and tend to raise chuckles and smiles without usually trying the patience of the viewer. Undertaking Betty (aka Plots with a View) is no exception, and anyone who enjoyed Brenda Blethyn in Saving Grace (2000/trailer) – a delightful piece of fluff in which the highly sheltered and freshly widowed main character turns to pot cultivation to make ends meet – will probably find this quaint film about a wronged woman finding love with a dancing undertaker as equally likable (with or without the assistance of a joint while watching).
To give credit where credit is due, the dance sequences as well as the method with which they are segued into the narration work amazingly well, and it very quickly becomes easy to believe that Betty and Boris are so much in love that they would indeed undertake such an inane plan to achieve their freedom together. The film does go a bit overboard towards the end and dives too deeply into the farcical, but hell, it’s not like Undertaking Betty has a social message. It is a pleasant, funny film and a painless way to spend the evening at home with the wife without necessarily having to watch a gag-reflex-inducing woman's film like, say (gag, puke) What Women Want (2000/trailer).

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