PLOTS WITH A VIEW
Small Welsh town undertaker Boris Plots (Alfred Molina) is still hurting 30 years after he dithered too long to ask Betty to dance at the school dance. Now, Betty (Brenda Blethyn) is married to the overweight and uncaring Hugh Rhys-Jones (Robert Pugh), a local Councillor who is having an ongoing affair with his tarty secretary, Meredith (Naomi Watts). Boris and Betty are drawn together when arranging the funeral for Betty’s mother in law, and Boris confesses his love – and wants to take her away from her miserable life. This coincides with the arrival of Frank Featherbed (Christopher Walken) who has inherited a local business which is now competition, with all the theatrical and marketing savvy of an off Broadway, wanna-be, for Plots Funeral Homes. But Boris hatches a deadly plan to steal good natured Betty from nasty Hugh, which involves her own funeral.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Plots With a View is a good example of an English trifle; rich with a variety of different ingredients and textures, colourful and quite tasty, faintly alcoholic even, but definitely in the underclass of desserts. And like all trifles, its ultimate, if shortlived success, relies entirely on each of the ingredients being relatively fresh, with a quality that would make them appealing on their own. Of course, most trifles are made from leftovers precisely to disguise their inability to stand alone. So it is with this film.
You’ll catch the odd juicy morsel of sponge cake a la the base plot, and there are whiffs of the rum of exotica, but the green filling jelly is dreadfully dull and wobbly, like the bouffant hairdo on Christopher Walken’s Frank Featherbed. He is not the only casting error of judgement: the entire cast can share that shield, although Naomi Watts does a terrific job of the gorgeous brazen hussy, which only boggles the mind even more considering the blubbery, unpleasant and totally unappealing Councillor Rhys-Jones.
But credibility is not what we are being offered, of course, although I’d like it more had the characters been real. Alfred Molina is always a fine actor with a deep well of sincerity beneath the dark good looks, but even he can’t quite make a Welsh Boris Plots work. Both he and Brenda Blethyn, as well as Christopher Walken and Naomi Watts, are cast because they have varying levels of marquee value, but in a film like this, unknown first class character actors could have given us bigger laughs, deeper resonances and a more substantial film. (Besides, having Naomi Watts appear in this cute but small support role at this point in the release schedule of her films is totally ruinous for all concerned, and her manager is probably crawling up the wall of his/her office.)
Of course I take instantly to the craziness of some of the bad taste ideas, like themed funerals, where the deceased dear beloved is sent off in a fantasy setting that they had always harboured in life: like Star Trek, say…. Indeed, the appeal of a good black comedy lies in its daring, and Plots With A View just doesn’t dare enough. When it attempts a breakout, such as a theatrical song and dance fantasy sequence, it just shows that it doesn’t quite know the difference between magic realism and clunky fantasy.
The really wacky ideas are always held in check or thrown into the plot without a view as to the film’s true calling as a black lace comedy. In the good old days of Ealing, we’d have had whimsy working its charm, but this is sadly lacking here, as is wit.
Review by Louise Keller:
It may not be as funny as it sets out to be, but Plots With A View has plenty of charm, some fun ideas, and a splendid turn by Christopher Walken, as a visionary and flamboyant funeral director. From director Nick Hurran (Virtual Sexuality, Girls’ Night) comes this fable that’s liberally spiked with black humour. It’s about unrequited love, fulfilling fantasies and its moral is that it’s never too late for anything.
Set in the sleepy Welsh town of Wrottin Powys, this is a community where everyone knows everyone else’s business. And dying is big business, especially when Christopher Walken’s Frank Featherbed inherits a funeral business from his uncle and goes into competition with Alfred Molina’s Boris Plots. Featherbed caters for ‘fantasy funerals’, so that even in death, one can achieve some realisation of dreams. Plots, however, keeps his fantasies to himself. He’s a soulful character, who delights in closing the doors, turning up the music and creating his own fantasies, dancing by himself as he prepares the corpses.
Walken is wonderfully eccentric as the mortician intent on being the ‘only game in town’ and the way the professional rivalry develops between Featherbed and Plots offers the film’s most delightful moments. Molina gives plenty of heart to poor old Boris Plots, the romantic whose shyness has always held him back… until now. Reality turns into fantasy as Plots asks Brenda Blethyn’s Betty to dance in the funeral parlour. The small black and white tiles on the floor expand to a substantial harlequin dance floor, as everyday clothing morphs into flowing glamour gowns, top hat and tails. Fred and Ginger, eat your hearts out! The development of the romance is very sweet, and when Plots kisses Betty as she walks home with her shopping bag, bells don’t ring, nor does lightening strike. Instead the shopping bag breaks and a bunch of onions drop onto the ground and roll down the hill. Naomi Watts has a lot of fun with the scarlet woman, wearing plenty of scarlet lipstick, lashings of cheap eyeshadow, scarlet lingerie and skin tight ‘sex on legs’ apparel.
Not everything works, and some of the ideas are in part let down by the execution. But there are quite a few laughs, and if you enjoy black comedy and thrive on the ridiculous, Plots With a View has enough entertainment value to make it worthwhile.
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PLOTS WITH A VIEW (M)
CAST: Brenda Blethyn, Alfred Molina, Christopher Walken, Robert Pugh, Naomi Watts, Lee Evans, Jerry Springer
PRODUCER: Michael Cowan, Suzanne Lyons, Jason Piette, Kate Robbins
DIRECTOR: Nick Hurran
SCRIPT: Frederick Ponzlov
CINEMATOGRAPHER: James Welland
EDITOR: John Richards
MUSIC: Rupert Gregson-Williams
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Keith Maxwell
RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 11, 2004
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: July 28, 2004