Sunday, June 10, 2007

Cold Comfort Farm

This film is the second adaptation of Stella Gibbon's 1932 comic novel which parodies the popular conception of life in rural England in the late 1800's and early 1900's set forth by such authors as George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and Emily Brontë. The heroine, Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) is a twenty-year-old aspiring writer in need of material for her first book and a residence following the death of her parents. A close and well-to-do friend (Joanna Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous fame) persuades her to contact her only remaining family, the cousins who live on the rural Cold Comfort Farm, and move in with them. Upon arrival, she discovers the farm to be brimming with eccentrics including, just to name a few, Judith (Eileen Atkins), who has strong feelings for her son Seth (Rufus Sewell), who has a fondness for movies and sex, Judith's husband Amos (Ian McKellan), the amateur hellfire preacher at the Church of the Quivering Brethren and Judith's mother Ada Doom (Sheila Burrell), the reclusive farm owner who dictates orders from a locked room because of having seen "something nasty in the woodshed" when she was young. As Flora, using her modern education and common sense, begins to unravel and organize the lives of the characters of Cold Comfort Farm, it eventually occurs to her that the material for her book has been surrounding her all along. (me)

As I mentioned at the top, this is the second adaptation of the book - the first was a British television mini-series (1971) and this one (1995) was a British made for television movie directed by John Schlesinger who is known for such movies as Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man and Pacific Heights. This version was so popular that Universal acquired the distribution rights and released it in U.S. theaters in 1996.

I first saw this movie a couple of years ago and was surprised that it had remained under my radar for as long as it had (the DVD came out in 2003). I'm a huge fan of British writing and acting and a collection of actors, such as this, is enough to get me to watch a movie regardless of the story. Everyone involved puts forth a typically good, easily believable and, in some cases, exceedingly funny performance. Ian McKellan, of course, stands out and is a joy to watch along with the performances of Rufus Sewell and Kate Beckinsale, however, that is not to say that everyone else's performances are lacking because they're not. Even Stephen Fry, most recently seen in V for Vendetta, shows up with most sincere performance.

If you're fond of British pieces (period or not) and have an affinity for eccentrics, there's a good chance you will enjoy this movie but, that's just my opinion. For me, a recent viewing has convinced me that I should add the book to my list of "books to hopefully read in this lifetime or the next" in order to get the full effect of the characters. I'll keep you Poste(ed).

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