Sunday, April 02, 2006

There Is No Butter In Hell

"You know what it's like when you burn your hand, taking a cake out of the oven, or lighting one of them godless cigarettes? And it stings with a fearful pain, aye? And you run to clap a bit of butter on it to take the pain away, aye? Well, I'll tell ye, there'll be no butter in hell," warns Amos Starkadder (Sir Ian McKellan) in Cold Comfort Farm (1995). Actually that's the end of a long and hilarious tirade about the evils of the world leading to damnation. How can that possibly be funny? Because by the time you reach the tirade you are so immersed in the over the top satire it is icing on the cake. Cold Comfort Farm is our movie of the week.

Kate Beckinsale stars as Flora Poste (Robert Poste's child as she is alternately addressed) an orphan from London who is left with an income of 100 pounds a year. Necessity drives Flora to live with distant relatives a la Dickens and Oh! what a morbid Dickensian house she falls into. From preacher Amos to demanding recluse (an family matriarch) Ada Doom to dimwitted eye-candy Seth (Rufus Sewell) Flora plows headlong into cliche. Flora is far from the wilting, accepting heroine that is so particularly irksome from the Brontes. Instead, Flora is the embodiment of Austen's practicality meeting PG Wodehouse's comic eccentrics.

Flora is very aware of her Austen like leanings and the Dickensian surroundings. She points at it all the while and is in fact an aspiring writer. Her horrible descriptions (
it was winter. The grimmest hour of the darkest day of the year. The Golden Orb had almost disappeared behind the interlacing fingers of the hawthorn.), a intentionally provacative of the worst Victorian lingual excesses. She is a charming snob who is invariably correct, in the end Flora is triumphant.

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