Death at a Funeral (2007)


Death at a Funeral
Dir. Frank Oz
Premiered at Aspen March 2, 2007

If there has been anything to learn from this project, it is that the late 2000s represented the final years of a certain kind of cinematic snobbery, wherein genre and subject matter determined quality as much as content and production value, if not moreso.

When Death at a Funeral debuted in 2007, it flew somewhat under the radar. But when career troll Neil LaBute directed an Americanized remake in 2010, many critics took the opportunity to voice their distaste with the original. By its nature, Death at a Funeral was a divisive film for the critical elite. On the one hand, it was British. On the other hand, it presented a side of British comedy that was, in the naïve Anglophilic mind, distressingly unsophisticated: a silly, light, unselfconscious farce poking fun at English repression.

Daniel (Matthew McFayden) is an insecure aspiring writer hoping to move out of his parents’ house when his father dies, bringing his emotionally distant but enormously successful author brother Robert (Rupert Graves) back into the fold. The ensuing funeral brings the entire family together, including but not limited to terminal neurotic Howard (Andy Nyman) and their foul-mouthed elderly uncle Alfie (Peter Vaughan); and drug-dealing cousin Troy (Kris Marshall), who accidentally doses sister Martha’s (Daisy Donovan) fiancé Simon (Alan Tudyk) with a custom mixture of LSD and Ketamine on the ride over.

But the funeral is also attended by a mysterious American visitor (Peter Dinklage), who blackmails Daniel and Robert into giving him some of their lest father’s money, lest he reveal that he and the deceased were in fact lovers.

Hilarity naturally ensues, and I mean hilarity. Between Simon’s manic drug trip, Daniel and Robert’s increasing desperation, and the mad rush of people trying and ultimately failing to pretend that nothing’s the matter, Death at a Funeral presents a classic farce with a clockwork script and wonderful performances by all involved. I’m just hopeful that now, unlike the characters, we’re willing to admit it.

Additional Notes
The weakest link here is Ewen Bremner as Howard’s friend Justin, a wannabe-lothario who crashes the funeral to hit on Martha. Bremner gives it is all, but there isn’t really a joke there.

How Did It Do?
Death at a Funeral earned $46.8 million against a $9 million budget– almost all of it from outside the United States. It’s also a very polarizing film; with a 61% rating on RottenTomatoes, many critics hailed it as a return to old-fashioned British farce, a smartly-done piece of gleeful stupidity, while others found it falling flat. In 2010, Neil LaBute remade the film with an all-black cast. It made slightly more money, but also cost twice as much (American name actors aren’t cheap), and was less well-received, despite many critics relishing the opportunity to show that they disliked the British original first, thank you very much.

Next Time: The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters


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