×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Rather English Marriage

A tony cast, led by Albert Finney on overdrive, chews up the scenery to entertaining --- and finally moving --- effect in the true-Brit comedy of manners "A Rather English Marriage."

With:
Reggie Cunningham-Jarvis ..... Albert Finney Roy Southgate ..... Tom Courtenay Lizzie Franks ..... Joanna Lumley Younger Reggie ..... John Light Younger Mary ..... Katie Carr Younger Roy ..... Iain Jones Younger Grace ..... Caroline Carver Mary ..... Ursula Howells Adjoa Andoh ..... Mandy Hope Vivian ..... Jeremy Clyde Sabrina ..... Emily Morgan

A tony cast, led by Albert Finney on overdrive, chews up the scenery to entertaining — and finally moving — effect in the true-Brit comedy of manners “A Rather English Marriage.” Warmly received by local auds at its London fest showings, this delightfully played study of two crusty old widowers who end up cohabiting in “Odd Couple” style will amuse connoisseurs of well-turned dialogue, English social foibles and effortless screen chemistry. On the business side, pic has “BBC” and “small screen” written all over it.

Reggie (Finney), a retired RAF squadron leader, and Roy (Tom Courtenay), a former milkman, meet when their respective wives expire at the same hospital in a country town. Both are unequipped to handle a solitary existence, though for different reasons: Roy, a homebody who was devoted to his spouse, lacks somebody to look after, and Reggie, a philandering layabout, couldn’t boil an egg if he sat on it. A social worker suggests that Roy move into Reggie’s capacious manse.

From the outset, the relationship is founded on traditional, mutually understood conventions. Reggie calls Roy by his surname, Southgate, as if he’s a chief butler, and Roy calls Reggie simply Squadron Leader. When he’s not being gently chided for using working-class vocabulary (“supper” instead of “dinner”), Roy is allowed to use Reggie’s car to visit his son, a ne’er-do-well in jail. Roy’s own trips to the big city are limited to occasional dalliances with Sabrina (Emily Morgan, choice) at a high-class brothel.

Into Reggie’s life suddenly wafts the sniffy Lizzie (Joanna Lumley), a gold digger who reckons the stiff-upper-lipped old soak could be the answer to her failing boutique business. Little does she realize that, fiscally, Reggie isn’t all he seems.

Though the initial departure point of the comedy — skillfully adapted by veteran Andrew Davies from Angela Carter’s novel — is a kind of British version of the Neil Simon classic, with Courtenay in the Jack Lemmon role and Finney in Walter Matthau’s, pic gains a true emotional undercurrent of its own with the entrance of Lumley and the gradual stripping down of Finney’s character to reveal the real man beneath. Lumley more than holds her own against the two male thesps (previously together over a decade ago in “The Dresser,” and more recently on the London stage in “Art”), whose natural chemistry is one of the movie’s highlights, with particularly generous playing from Courtenay as the effective straight man.

TV helmer Paul Seed directs smoothly, though in traditional small-screen style, and Jim Parker’s score is a major assist in both tone and atmosphere. Unfortunately, color in print caught is rather wan in the 16mm blowup, and plain muddy in some interiors.

Popular on Variety

A Rather English Marriage

(COMEDY-DRAMA -- BRITISH)

Production: A Wall to Wall Television production, for the BBC. Produced by Jo Willett. Executive producers, Alex Graham, David M. Thompson. Directed by Paul Seed. Screenplay, Andrew Davies, from the novel by Angela Carter.

Crew: Camera (color), Gavin Finney; editor, Dave King; music, Jim Parker; production designer, Michael Pickwoad; art director, Henry Harris; costume designer, Frances Tempest; sound, Jim Greenhorn; assistant director, Cordelia Hardy. Reviewed at London Film Festival, Nov. 18, 1998. Running time: 104 MIN.

With: Reggie Cunningham-Jarvis ..... Albert Finney Roy Southgate ..... Tom Courtenay Lizzie Franks ..... Joanna Lumley Younger Reggie ..... John Light Younger Mary ..... Katie Carr Younger Roy ..... Iain Jones Younger Grace ..... Caroline Carver Mary ..... Ursula Howells Adjoa Andoh ..... Mandy Hope Vivian ..... Jeremy Clyde Sabrina ..... Emily Morgan

More Film

  • Lady and the Tramp trailer

    'Lady and the Tramp': Disney's Live-Action Remake Gets First Trailer (Watch)

    Ready your dog-friendly bowl of spaghetti, Disney has debuted the first trailer for its live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp,” starring Tessa Thompson and Justin Theroux. The teaser was released during Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim at the Disney + presentation. In addition to Thompson and Theroux, who play the Lady and Tramp, respectively, [...]

  • Mickey Mouse waves to members of

    Spider-Man, Spicer and Splashy First-Looks: Everything We're Looking For at D23

    As if Disney hasn’t owned enough weekends this year at the box office, the biennial D23 Expo will light up Anaheim, Calif. over the next three days to celebrate the content monolith. From a new Netflix-competing streaming platform to scores of movie and series reveals — along with a few hot controversies to confront — [...]

  • Angel Has Fallen

    'Angel Has Fallen' to Dominate Modest Box Office With $20 Million Weekend

    Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are leading the way at the North American box office with “Angel Has Fallen” on its way to about $20 million, early estimates showed Friday. Should forecasts hold, “Angel Has Fallen” will take in about double the next title, Universal’s second weekend of raunchy comedy “Good Boys” with about $10 [...]

  • Aracne

    Sanfic Standout ‘Aracne’ Filmmakers Discuss the State of Chilean Genre

    A key project at this year’s Santiago Lab, the Santiago Intl. Film Festival industry forum for promising Latin American projects, Florencia Dupont’s “Aracne” is representative of a push from the next generation of Chilean filmmakers into genre cinema and the themes it can explore. “Aracne” turns on Beatriz, a young journalist at a small Santiago [...]

  • Eduardo Machuca

    Chile’s Eduardo Machuca Unveils Machuca Films Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    SANTIAGO, Chile – Eduardo Machuca, the former film co-ordinator of Chile’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has launched his own production company, Machuca Films. “After 25 years at the ministry, I felt I needed to tap my creative side,” said Machuca, who is also tying the knot on Saturday (Aug. 24) with a former Sanfic staffer, [...]

  • Robert Downey Jr. Disney Legends Ceremony,

    Robert Downey Jr. Reveals He Was Busted for Smoking Pot at Disneyland

    Robert Downey Jr. celebrated his Disney Legend status by sharing the endearing tale of how the first time he visited Disneyland, he was arrested. The Iron Man actor was being honored in Anaheim at Disney’s biennial D23 convention. After a brief introduction by Disney chief executive officer Bob Iger, Downey felt he had to come [...]

  • Thandie Newton Reminiscence

    Thandie Newton Reteams With 'Westworld's' Lisa Joy on 'Reminiscence' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Following her Emmy win for her performance on “Westworld,” Thandie Newton is joining the feature directorial debut of the show’s co-creator. Sources tell Variety that Newton is set to join Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson in Warner Bros.’ “Reminiscence,” directed by “Westworld’s” Lisa Joy. WB acquired the rights to the package after this year’s Berlin [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content