Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Kiss of Death, 1977 & Who's Who, 1979 - (Mike Leigh)

The Kiss of Death may well be the worst Mike Leigh film. It isn't an awful film, just an unnecessary film. The Kiss of Death is far more character study than plot driven. Although, most of Leigh's films are character driven. So, what about this film gets under my skin?

The film follows an undertaker's assistant and his experience of dating a friend's girlfriend's friend. The interactions are awkward. Forced. Uncomfortable. This is all very much Leigh territory. In fact, it feels so much like a poorly put together version of Leigh's Bleak Moments from time to time. And, the characters are all upper-lower class. Very typical for Leigh. This is so much a Leigh film.

The downfall is the characters. They're not interesting. They aren't even so uninteresting it's a like a train wreck. They just don't keep you focused. I never thought 'what is going to come of these people?' The main character, Trevor, seems to suffer from some mental issue. But, we're never really told what, if anything. He just laughs at all the wrong moments and is so uncomfortable with himself we're just left to say 'alright, whatever.' The film is short. The acting is great. The story is thin, and the characters boring.

Mike Leigh has always been interested in the upper-lower class and the lower-middle class. Each of his films follow the dysfunctions, disturbances, and problems of the characters. But, for Who's Who, Leigh does something a little different.

The characters are all upper class or upper-middle class. And, for the most part, Leigh is making fun of his cast of characters. This is not one of Leigh's more serious films. This is definitely heavy in the humor. But, also, a little heavy handed. While poking fun at this class of people is entertaining and new for Leigh, it feels a little forced. Most of the time, too much of a farce.

But, other than these little complaints, the film is still a lot of fun. In fact, the couple of Alan and April are some of my favorite Leigh characters. Alan is so caught up in trying to make everyone aware of his class status, he just comes off as a needy nerd. His wife, April, breeds cats for cash. The house is overflowing with some of the cutest little creatures. This all creates a lot of silly moments.

Who's Who is playful. It's farce. It's not a Leigh great. But, it's an entertaining step.

Both The Kiss of Death and Who's Who are films/plays for the BBC.

The Kiss of Death: D+
Who's Who: C

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