You gotta love the Brits. No one does uncomfortably hilarious quite like them. Death at a Funeral is an “everything that could go wrong, does” sort of comedy, that is funny and touching, relatable and over-the-top all at the same time.
The premise is simple: a son attempts to host a wake for his deceased father, but must navigate an obstacle course of unplanned catastrophes and familial complications that nearly ruin the day. For me the best parts are the interactions between the family members. Some of the arguments here are so true to life that I can’t help but laugh. The brother who refuses to chip in for the cost of the day, the cousins quibbling over a parking space, the boyfriend desperately trying to impress his girlfriend’s father… any of these could (and probably have) happen at funerals everyday.
The rest of the film is a lot of slapstick, which is less relatable. I mean, I’ve never been to a funeral where the casket overturned, or someone has gotten high on hallucinogenic drugs, or a little person tried to blackmail the family. Still funny though. It helps that the ensemble cast is excellent, so even in the most absurd moments you’re rooting for them to succeed.
I don’t like to admit this very often, but I was born in England and as much as I want to hide from that, even I will admit that there are some distinctively pommy traits that I have. I can’t stand Germans, and I love English comedy. Death at a Funeral is a great example of English comedy. It is dark and completely wrong. Nearly everything that happens in this film is cringe worthy. When I watch this film, it is the same feeling I get when I am watching a show like Fawlty Towers or The UK Office. I can’t help but laugh, even though this is such a bad turn of events.
Death at a Funeral follows the funeral of a family patriarch. Matthew Macfadyen stars as Daniel, the oldest son. He is an aspiring writer who is jealous of his brother Robert (Rupert Graves), a successful writer living in New York. One of the running gags in the film is that attendees of the funeral are questioning why the more accomplished Robert is not giving the eulogy rather than Daniel. Daniel’s reaction to these complaints are very funny. The funeral takes a turn for the worse when a midget (Peter Dinklage) appears and tries to blackmail Daniel for £15,000 or else he will tell the family he had been having an affair with their father– and he has the pictures to prove it. This film also follows the rest of this dysfunctional family and chronicles this awkward family reunion.
Alan Tudyk is one of the few recognisable actors in this film. He is great as a nervous boyfriend who accidentally mistakes a hallucinogenic drug for valium. His antics during and after the funeral service are classic. Other than Tudyk and Dinklage, the other standout for me was Peter Vaughan as the wheelchair bound Uncle Alfie. He is a crotchety old man and has some of the best lines in the film.
I enjoyed this film. As with most successful English movies, the Yanks remade this film a few years later with an almost completely new cast (Only Dinklage reprises his role, because I believe he is the only midget working in Hollywood right now). I heard the film was good, and after watching this English version again, I am interested to see the US version. If I can find it cheap on Amazon, I will definitely pick it up. So stay tuned, we could be reviewing the US version of this film in the near future.