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Why do I love this movie sooooo much. Because it is one of the most
delightful movies ever made.
From the opening shots of Dame Maggie Smith and her aged mother (Liz Smith) jostling for space on the Wurlitzer seat to the closing shots of Michael Palin and Richard Griffiths looking sadly at Betty on the platter this is a movie where every scene has something new.
The contents of Michael Palin's lunch box, Richard Griffiths popping his little trotter over the edge of the chair to get a chocolate for Betty, Liz Smith checking her nightgown for malodorous fumes, Bill Paterson and his wonderful artistry with green paint ( don't miss this line its great), Michael Palin's overt Pythonesque chiropodist sign, and Liz Smiths startled look watching him clean it, these are just a taste of the subtle visual and aural moments that make this movie magic (moments that obviously went completely over the head of a previous reviewer).
Alan Bennetts plot is original and actually believable, as snobbery of all kinds can be found alive and well in any nation in the world at any time, and Denholm Elliot and Dame Maggie Smith would have to be crowned the King and Queen of snobbery for their efforts in this.
Many people read some books over and over This is a movie I watch over and over. I have this movie on Video and I shall definitely be buying it on DVD as well
This is one of those very droll, and sometimes bizarre British comedies that is absurdly funny. The plot centers around a couple in the days right before Elizabeth II's coronation and the machinations of a social climbing Maggie Smith who equates pork with prestige. She manages to get her henpecked husband (Michael Palin) to kidnap a pig, and well the rest just needs to be experienced. I thought the movie was hilarious, but I have known others who found it just plain ridiculous. Those who disapprove of bathroom humor need not see this one.
This movie already had everything to please me before I even started
watching it. Knowing that this was a British comedy, was already enough
for me to decide that I wanted to see it, but that it was situated in
the first post-WWII years, only made it even more interesting for me.
I'm very interested in that time period, but in my opinion there aren't
enough good movies about it. However, it's not because I think that
I'll like a movie, that I'll automatically give it a good rating. I
still need to watch it first.
"A Private Function" is situated in a small town in England in 1947. Even though the war is over for about two years, there still is a rationing of meat and more in particular of pork. The butchers and farmers are severely controlled in order to prevent the start of a black market, but the rules aren't always obeyed. When Princess Elizabeth is going to marry, a local group of businessmen and notables are organizing a party to impress the local government. They have a pig illegally raised and want to slaughter it for the event. But just before the party, the pig is stolen by Gilbert Chilvers on the instigation of his wife and his mother-in-law, who can't live with the idea that they no longer belong to the notables of the community and therefore can't get more meat...
If you like the typical British humor, than this is definitely a movie you shouldn't miss. Especially when they keep the pig in their own house, you can be sure of some hilarious scenes. One reviewer said that you shouldn't watch it when you don't like toilet humor. I'm afraid I can't follow him in that opinion. I don't like that kind of humor at all, but it never was shown in this movie either. It's just insinuated and that's why I could live with it without any problem. Another good reason why you should give this movie a try is the acting. Michael Palin is excellent as the somewhat quiet, but lovable husband who does everything his wife - Maggie Smith plays that role really very well - wants him to do. But the other actors, even though most of them aren't very famous, are very good and interesting to watch.
All in all this is a comedy that deserves a lot more attention than what it has received so far. I really enjoyed watching it and regularly had a good laugh. What more can you possibly want from a comedy? A good story and some fine acting? They are all in it as well and that's why I give this movie a 7.5/10.
The 1980s were dark days for the British film industry and productivity
was at an unprecedented low. That doesn't mean that there weren't a
number of very fine films made during this time. It does mean that they
tend to be rather forgotten in what is often described as a period of
wilderness for British cinema. This is rather unfair, as there are a
number of fine films made during this decade that don't get the
attention they should. A Private Function is a case in point.
The cast assembled for the film is simply one of the best I have ever seen in one movie. Look at the cast today and you would say it was star-studded; actually, many of these actors were not especially famous at the time (only Michael Palin, Maggie Smith, Denholm Elliott and Alison Steadman were really famous actors). Most of the others (Richard Griffiths, Pete Postlethwaite, Jim Carter, Liz Smith, Bill Paterson, Tony Haygarth) have achieved more recognition since. Their obvious talent and future potential was clear to see in this movie. As the fortunes of British films have improved since, their careers have duly flourished.
If the film has a weakness, it is that it is supposed to be a star vehicle for Michael Palin, and yet his character is utterly dull and boring. Palin has proved he is a very capable actor elsewhere and might have impressed more if the kind of effort Bennett put into developing the other characters had also been afforded to Palin's role. This is a minor point though, because the rest of the characters are so well scripted it doesn't seem to matter too much. Palin would probably be the first to admit that the film works because of the script's overall quality (Alan Bennett is simply one of Britain's most incisive comic minds) and because of the wonderful supporting cast, not because of the strength of his own character.
A Private Function is a relatively low budget and uniquely British film. The writing and the acting represent the very best of British cinema. It's a shame it doesn't get more recognition but the gentle wit, eccentric characters and lack of glamour and romance, plus the state the British film industry was in at the time it was made, probably meant that it was never destined to be a blockbuster. It does remain a very funny and at times quite barbed portrait of a particular period in 20th century British history.
A near classic; like something Ealing might have done if, perhaps,
raunchier though not necessarily darker. Set at the time of the present
Queen Elizabeth's wedding to Prince Phillip, it's about the petty
jealousies of the ostensible middle-classes of Northern ration-book
Michael Palin is Gilbert, a mild-mannered chiropodist, looked down upon, in all senses, by the local community who finds his trump card and way into society in the form of a pig that is being fattened for the private function of the title, a dinner for local dignitaries in celebration of the royal wedding. Maggie Smith is his genteel wife who turns into Lady MacBeth in pursuit of her dreams of fitting in and that great character actress Liz Smith is her slightly dotty mother. Scriptwriter Alan Bennet's depiction of the milieu of false noblesse oblige is as sharp as ever and the entire cast rise to the occasion.
This is one of those priceless British films where the comedy is so delightful. Maggie Smith, as usual, is perfect in her role of the snobbish woman. Michael Palin is equally perfect as her befuddled hen-pecked husband. The humor is absolutely top-notch.
Life after WWII was bleak in England. Rationing was hitting hard, but spirits were lifted by the forthcoming royal marriage of Elizabeth and Philip. This slice of village life takes a poke at stiff England and the trials and tribulations of getting a slap up feast on the table for the local VIPs to celebrate the marriage. Michael Palin is the wimp, and marvellous Maggie Smith is the "trousers" in the relationship. Lots of lovely one-liners to treasure.
One of the funniest comedies to come across the Atlantic in a long, long time. Maggie is magnificent. This movie will go right over the heads of teenie booopers with less than a high school education, but for the enlightened world this is a gem.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One day some clever movie club organizer will realize that he could
make a very enjoyable evening of two films dealing with an event from
1947. They are ROYAL WEDDING and A PRIVATE FUNCTION. Both deal with
events tied to the marriage of Philip Mountbatten (today Prince Philip)
and Princess Elizabeth Windsor (today Queen Elizabeth II). The 1951
film musical (with Fred Astaire, Jane Powell, Peter Lawford, Sarah
Churchill, and Keenan Wynn) has a dignified, picture postcard view of
the actual events in Westminster Abbey the day the future Queen and her
future consort married. This was to be expected on both sides of the
Atlantic in 1951, as Sarah Churchill's father (who probably gave the
film his blessing and cooperation) was Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime
Minister of England in World War II and now again Prime Minister until
Leave it to the British to undercut the respect an American based production on the royal marriage created. For 33 years after ROYAL WEDDING, along came A PRIVATE FUNCTION. Unlike ROYAL WEDDING it does not deal with events in the British capital, and it does not not have characters with some type of fictional prestige (Astaire and Powell are a brother and sister performing act like Fred and Adele Astaire years before, and Powell is being romanced by Lawford - a member of the aristocracy). No, A PRIVATE FUNCTION was about how a small coterie of local snobs in a midland city of England decided to properly celebrate the first "return of glamor" to Britain after World War II.
In this midland city the nobs (Denholm Elliott, Richard Griffiths, John Normington) are planning a massive celebration for only those with proper social credentials (no working class types, except for a butcher, no dark skinned types, no Jews). The central key to their plans is an illegal pig. A what? Well, it is still a period of rationing in Post-War England, and the black market of meat is very strong. A special pig has been housed and bred by the butcher (Pete Posthlewaite) illegally at a farmer's secret shed (the farmer, by the way, is invited too). Posthlewaite has been improving his own business by tipping off the local meat inspector (Bill Paterson) about black market acts by competitors, but Paterson is aware that no butcher is above suspicion, and he is also aware of rumors concerning a super feast with illegal pork being planned.
Into this mix comes a chiropodist (Michael Palin), his socially starved and pretentious wife (Maggie Smith) and her mother (Liz Smith). Palin is trying to get his position in town set by renting a store front, but one of the nobs is Elliott who resents competition from Palin. So Palin finds the going tough (the deal for the store front falls through, and his car and traveling chiropractic shed are purposely wrecked by Elliott). But in repairing his car Palin is near the farm the pig is hidden at. Subsequently, after another argument with Smith about their precarious position in the town, Palin steals the pig. And all hell breaks lose.
The social nobs and the butcher and farmer are trying to find the missing porker. Without it their plans are in ruin. The meat inspector is aware of a possible illegal pig and starts prying into all kinds of places. His lack of a sense of smell due to a war injury prevents his inquiries from going the full way. Palin and Smith struggle to hide the pig in their home - and discover how filthy pigs really are. As for poor Liz Smith, she is repeatedly told that she is imagining the foul odors and pig refuse around the house - that it is proof she is going senile. She ends up frightened, repeating "No pig, no pig!!" as reassurance that she is not mad.
Eventually things do right themselves out - though not totally the way all the players hope or wanted.
Denholm Elliott was always a fine actor, and here plays possibly his most obnoxious character - a snob, a racist, a malicious competitor, and one who sees nothing wrong with farting while having lunch in a friend's house. Maggie Smith makes an art of pretension, ever since her finest role as Jean Brodie, but here it is undercut by the economic realities presented by Palin. Michael Palin is a basically good person married to an unrealistic woman, and fighting a coterie of really nasty types. His kidnapping of the pig happens to be a long term disaster, but one cheers his short term victory. Of the others in the film, my favorite is Richard Griffiths, who turns out to be a decent person too - and one who finds a new common purpose with a better friend than Elliott.
When it came out in 1984 A PRIVATE FUNCTION was considered one of several films that seem to revive the great Ealing Comedies of the 1950s. It certainly deserves comparison to those classics, and I urge you to try to see it some time...with or without a pet pig.
Full anamorphic widescreen, DTS and Dolby sound plus an audio narration by Alan Bennett, Malcolm Mowbray (director) and Michael Palin. Gorgeous! It's taken many years for Anchor Bay to get this film on DVD, but now I can relegate my VHS to the bin. The sound is so clear not you can hear all those one-liners clearly again!
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