Ablack comedy about a small-town kook who can’t stop deep-sixing her relatives, “Deadly Advice” squanders a gaggle of British character actors on a nothing script that’s desperately in need of a laugh track. Leadenly directed attempt at a “Kind Hearts and Coronets” clone stiffs almost from the word go. B.O. looms likewise.
Jane Horrocks (“Life Is Sweet”) toplines as Jodie, a shy oddball in a picture-postcard village on the Welsh border who’s dominated by her bossy mom (Brenda Fricker) and rumbustious sister, Beth (Imelda Staunton). Latter starts a carnal affair with a hunky male stripper (Ian Abbey).
Though the script doesn’t give much away, Jodie clearly hasn’t got all her oars in the water. After being visited by apparitions of a local wife-poisoner (Edward Woodward) and Victorian ax murderer (Billie Whitelaw), Jodie sinks a hatchet in her mom’s skull. Beth helps her dispose of the corpse, assisted by advice from a phantom Dr. Crippen (Hywel Bennett). When Beth tries some gentle blackmail, Jodie tops her as well, closely followed by her stripper b.f. At her trial for the latter’s murder, Jodie pleads self-defense and gets off. Coda, in which she marries patient suitor Ted (Jonathan Pryce), features a well-telegraphed twist, plus some Freudian mumbo-jumbo to explain Jodie’s mind-set.
Black comedy of this sort needs to be done either with brisk pacing or great style, and debuting helmer Mandie Fletcher (from the TV series “Blackadder”) shows an alarming lack of both. Plot dawdles along for at least half-hour of family backgrounding before Horrocks starts reaching for the hardware, and Glenn Chandler’s script is as short on laughs as a burning orphanage.
Though set in the present, the gallery of Brit stereotypes curiously evokes small-town pix of the ’50s, sans their spirit and true eccentricities. Horrocks and company’s attempts at Welsh accents seem an unnecessary distraction.
Though Horrocks has built a name in Blighty for playing kooky characters, she needs a stronger script and director to carry a pic of this sort. As her mom and sis, Fricker and Staunton are solid; of the gallery of veteran names as the phantom murderers, only Woodward and Mills make any impression. As Horrocks’ milquetoast boyfriend, Pryce is also chopped off at the legs by the nothing script.
Sole spark is provided by Richard Harvey’s bombastic, mock-Handelian score. Production design, and Richard Greatrex’s exterior lensing in the village of Hay-on-Wye, are both fine.