Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson) is the blundering vicar of the parish of Little Wallop. Always so busy tending to the townspeople and now obsessing over writing the perfect sermon, Walter remains oblivious to his wife Gloria’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) secret meetings with her suave golf instructor Lance (Patrick Swayze); his daughter Holly’s (Tamsin Egerton) new-found interest in exploring her libido with several young men; and his son Petey’s (Toby Parkes), bully problem.
In comes Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith), the Goodfellow’s new housekeeper, a sweet, grey-haired old lady that has her own peculiar methods in keeping house by eliminating various annoyances such as barking dogs and pestering neighbours that are plaguing the Goodfellow residence.
It is Grace’s uncanny influence on the Goodfellows’ lives that sets the stage for this English black comedy. The film’s cheeky humour comes from playing up on the more serious issues of marriage, family and religion by adding in murder, adultery and other indecencies in a well-written script. Some of the humour appears to be light-hearted, but not to be fooled by that, Keeping Mum is actually quite a dark film which is justified by its oddball cast.
Rowan Atkinson and Kristin Scott Thomas play their roles believably but at times appear lifeless and bored on screen, especially Atkinson. Maggie Smith is great as the humble and murderous housekeeper, and Patrick Swayze is convincing as the sleazy golf instructor. There are several comedic scenes in the film, but overall it seems that for every humorous scene there is another that will bring the tone of the film down dramatically and at times, bordering on tedious. The uneven tone and lacklustre performances in the movie make it only semi-successful as a black comedy, but a witty script and a few cheeky giggles make it worth checking out at the movies this year.
One of Patrick Swayze’s final movie roles, 4 years prior to his death on 14 September 2009 from pancreatic cancer.