Wednesday, September 27, 2006

T’aint Funny, McGee, Part II
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. It’s a sign of the times, I guess, something that comes with reaching “un certain age.” For one thing, it seems like a lot of people I know (or knew) are dying. Of course, people are dying all the time, but this year’s been an especially striking one for me. So far, I’ve lost my last two aunts (both in their 90s) and a friend of the family who I’d known since I was born (89). There were also people who weren’t close but went way back: my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law’s mother (88), a woman who grew up in my building (54), a man I knew when I was a journalist (56), and one I found about by accident, a man I knew when I was at the University of Denver in the 1970s (50). And a suicide, who I saw a just couple of days before he jumped off the roof of his building, the production manager of a quarterly magazine I copyedited for. At the end of last year, I saw two articles in the same week that continued the theme: “Death and a dinner party” in the D.U. alumni magazine, about planning one’s funeral, and another in The Times, about planning one’s parent’s funeral.
Maybe that’s why I didn’t find Keeping Mum so very funny. Laughter is a way of keeping away the ghosts but when they come as close as I’ve felt them this year, the laughs aren’t as spontaneous as they usually are. Kristin Scott Thomas was excellent and Maggie Smith was fun to watch, but Rowan Atkinson seemed to be trying too hard not to be funny. The characters played by Patrick Swayze and Tamsin Egerton were more cartoonish than believable. The settings were lovely, in a travelogue-of-Britain style. I couldn’t figure out, though, why Thomas, the vicar’s wife, was taking golf lessons from Swayze, the local club’s pro, and how he found his way to the out-of-the-way course on the English coast. Better not to ask too many questions, I guess, and just go with the comfy flow. Think of it as Arsenic and Old Lace with a posh accent, and let it go at that.