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Film / Keeping Mum

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"Mummy! Mummy! Billy Martin came after me, but Grace was there and all I said was broccoli and now he's dead! Billy Martin's dead! Woohoo! Billy Martin's dead!"

Keeping Mum is a 2005 British Black Comedy starring Rowan Atkinson, Patrick Swayze, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas. In it the Goodfellow family is starting to fall on hard times; Walter Goodfellow (Atkinson), a vicar, is obsessing over writing the perfect sermon. His neglected wife Gloria is beginning an affair. Daughter Holly is bringing home increasingly unsuitable boyfriends while son Petey is bullied by his classmates.

And then, like Mary Poppins floating down from the sky, Grace Hawkins appears to set things right. Only instead of machiavellian schemes worthy of Jeeves her main strategy involves murder.

This film provides examples of:

  • Amusing Injuries: Maggie Smith just smacked the shit out of you with an iron.
  • Answer to Prayers: Played with, when the Reverend Walter Goodfellow stands in his pulpit, asks God about his forthcoming speech "God's mysterious ways", and provides God's answer himself, using the pulpit microphone.
    Walter: God?
    Walter: (switches microphone on, and speaks in a deep voice, pretending to be God) Yes, Walter?
    Walter: (as himself) How do you think it's sounding?
    Walter: (as God) Well, the title stinks, for a start.
    Grace: (who has suddenly appeared in the church) I wouldn't agree with God on that one.
  • Asshole Victim: Lance is killed right while he is hiding in the bushes recording a young girl undressing.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Grace is very cheerful. Even when discussing multiple homicide.
  • Boring Religious Service: The Reverend Walter Goodfellow is well-meaning but boring, and presumably gives boring sermons, until he learns to be funnier. When Grace arrives, he says a particularly long prayer, until his wife Gloria interrupts him with "Amen".
  • Catchphrase: "It's about the flower arranging committee." Also, "Shall I put the kettle on?"
  • Church Lady: Mrs Parker frequently corners the vicar to talk about the flower-arranging committee.
  • Closet Shuffle: When Gloria and Holly find out the truth about Grace, they hide under Grace's bed. Grace enters the room, sits on the bed, and calls Gloria on her mobile, cheerfully saying "this is Grace speaking. Would you like to come out from under the bed?"
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Walter. "Was that a brassiere over Holly's shoulder this morning?"
  • Comedic Sociopathy: It's a comedy where some of the most sympathetic characters are either murderers or accessories to murder.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Goodfellows at the start of the film are quietly falling apart. The key causes are Walter accidentally neglecting his family under the pressures of his job, and his and Gloria's inability to communicate with Holly.
  • Hands-On Approach: Lance stands behind Gloria to show her how to hold her golf club, as a very clear sign of their intimacy.
  • The Hecate Sisters: Holly the maiden (*snrk*), Gloria the mother and Grace the crone.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: "How did you know about other bodies?"
  • Innocently Insensitive: Mr. Brown and Mrs. Parker. They are not evil, but they still play an important role in why Gloria is increasingly frustrated, Walter increasingly busy, and how this is tearing the Goodfellow family apart. Mr. Brown, being deaf or nearly deaf, cannot hear that his dog keeps barking all night and when Gloria tries to explain to him that for it she can't sleep, he does not seem to understand and instead of stopping to listen to her he shuts the door in her face. Mrs. Parker continues to hound Walter, and then Gloria, about her flower-arranging committee. It is clear that just the fact that Walter is a vicar and Gloria his wife why they have not made her realize that she cannot persecute them like that without ever caring if they have time to listen or if by going to them she's interrupting something important.
  • It's Personal: "It's the least a mother could do for her daughter!" Doubles as a Wham Line.
  • Karma Houdini: Grace, although she has in a way pre-paid her debt by missing out on so much of her family's life.
  • Kick the Dog: Billy Martin and his cronies relentlessly bully Petey.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Grace to Gloria (which you should see coming from a mile away).
  • Magical Nanny: Parodied hard, especially because this film can be seen as a black comedy version of Mary Poppins.
  • Moment Killer: "I'll be late for work", later Gloria needing to "see to Mrs. Parker" after Walter returns from the convention. And then there's Lance's "love pack"...
    • Also, nothing kills a sexy mood like your butt accidentally hitting the car horn.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Grace is introduced in this manner. As she puts it, she and her doctors often disagreed on this point.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Technically, "never mess with Mum" would be more appropriate, but it works, as Grace is of rather advanced age.
  • Oh, Crap!: Grace realizing that Mrs. Parker might know about Gloria and Lance; "Mum...I think you need to see this!"; the workmen announcing that the pond needs draining.
  • The Peeping Tom: Lance takes a video of Holly in her bedroom.
    Holly: (seeing the video) Who is this guy? I'll kill him!
    Grace: That won't be necessary, dear.
  • Pre-Approved Sermon: Walter probably makes sure that all his sermons meet with God's approval. He is seen talking to God about his forthcoming speech.
    Walter: (in the pulpit) God? (switches microphone on, speaks in a deep voice) Yes, Walter? (normal voice) How do you think it's sounding? (As God) Well, the title stinks, for a start.
    Grace: (who has just wandered in) You know, I wouldn't agree with God there.
  • Really Gets Around: Holly. Her poor work-obsessed father can't even keep track of which boy she's on. ("This is, David.")
  • Running Gag: Mrs. Parker desperately trying to raise issues about the... the.. flower-arranging committee.
  • Stealth Pun: Mrs. Parker is quite the nosy Parker, isn't she? Also, Grace, Gloria and Holly "keep mum" over something that Gloria's long lost mother did...
  • Vehicular Sabotage: Grace cuts the brake cables on the bikes belonging to Petey's bullies, so that they crash when pursuing him.
  • The Vicar: Walter, of course, who would regularly subject his family to prayers anywhere and everywhere.
    Walter: (after Grace's arrival) I think now is the perfect time to say a few words.
    Gloria: Walter...
    Walter: Just a few words, Gloria. Lord, thank you for this day... and thank you for bringing us Grace. And (seeing Holly's new boyfriend) thank you also for Carl... er, Mark, er...
    Holly: David.
    Walter: David, who we've also only just met... and we hope will be very happy here.
    Gloria: (briskly interrupting) Amen. Now, who would like a cup of tea?