Posted Apr 20 2018

Funny Cow - This Movie Rocks To The Max (ine)

Dir: Adrian Shergold

Starring Maxine Peake, Paddy Considine, Tony Pitts, Alun Armstrong, Lindsay Coulson, Jim Moir, Richard Hawley

Set largely in a well realised 1970s, Maxine Peake is triumphant as a young Northern woman, newly married and destined to inherit and repeat the mistakes of her own mother, albeit now at the hands of her own brutal husband (a superbly menacing turn from Pitts, also the screenwriter here.) She sees her escape through stand up – odd really, given that her only experience of the profession is watching ailing old time comic Lenny (Armstrong) die on a regular basis.

Shergold’s film jumps about as Funny Cow appears to tell her story to a TV camera (never explained) from her days as a child – known here as Funny Calf (a bright Macy Shackleton.) What follows is for the most part fairly familiar stuff – abusive father is followed by youthful escape which turns out to be brutal husband and repeated cycles, with the notable exception of an against type Considine showing up as the educated bookshop owner Funny Cow leaves her husband for. But her heart is on the stage, where she eventually finds herself.

To say such things are familiar is not to say they are not handled well. The cast is uniformly strong and Shergold keeps everything moving along in a pleasing breezy manner, keeping the darkness in plain sight, but pushed to the edges.

The main drawback is the lack of context in terms of Funny Cow’s (supposed) stellar rise to stardom. We see her first failed gig (alongside an equally bad Vic Reeves and a great Richard Hawley – who also does soundtrack duties), and  then her first successful gig (where she takes down the brilliantly named “Fat Cunt.”). But nothing more. Suddenly she’s a star – but the how and the why are never shown. Which lets down an otherwise enjoyable film.


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