×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mad Cows

Cranked up in high "AbFab" style, Joanna Lumley walks off with the few honors available in "Mad Cows," an occasionally entertaining but hopelessly jumbled attempt to translate Aussie-born Kathy Lette's absurdist novel about single motherhood to the bigscreen.

With:
Maddy - Anna Friel Gillian - Joanna Lumley Dwina Phelps - Anna Massey Alex's mother - Phyllida Law Alex - Greg Wise Politician - John Standing Slynne - Nicholas Woodeson Dr. Minny Stinkler - Prunella Scales

Cranked up in high “AbFab” style, Joanna Lumley walks off with the few honors available in “Mad Cows,” an occasionally entertaining but hopelessly jumbled attempt to translate Aussie-born Kathy Lette’s absurdist novel about single motherhood to the bigscreen. Short runs in undiscerning ranches, followed by a rapid trip to video pastures looks the best bet for this bovine comedy, whose caricatured portrait of Brits may go down better in Lette’s native land than in the U.K., where it was roundly rapped by critics.

Topliner Anna Friel, an actress ever in need of a strong helmer, is dull as Maddy, a young Aussie living in London who’s arrested for shoplifting, dumped by the upper-crust Alex (Greg Wise) who is father of her young baby, and is sent to jail. A daytime TV star flirting with a career in politics, Alex is eager to appear as Mr. Clean and marry into the gentry.

Help for Maddy comes in the form of Gillian (Lumley), a penniless aristocrat on the run for credit card fraud who agrees to mind her kid while she breaks out of jail and gets even with Alex. The problem is that, while in jail, Maddy unwittingly signed papers allowing her baby to be adopted by a childless couple of crazies. And when out of jail, she falls for handsome Lothario Alex all over again.

Lette’s one-liner strewn dialogue, effective on the printed page, needs more stylish handling and directorial framing than it receives from Sara Sugarman, a former actress and shorts helmer making her feature film debut. Lumley simply switches into her “Absolutely Fabulous” mode and gets away with it; others, like Anna Massey as the jail shrink and Nicholas Woodeson as a gross cop, mug ridiculously.

Friel, though sporting a spot-on Aussie accent, shows no real gift for verbal or physical comedy, and pic loses impetus when she’s onscreen. Whenever Lumley takes over, however, “Mad Cows” briefly hits its stride as the aging but purposeful Gillian cons her way into an expensive hotel, makes a half-hearted attempt to get a job (“Something from 12 to 1, with an hour off for lunch”), and eventually finds herself discovering maternal instincts for Maddy’s kid. The classy thesp even manages to bring off a grubbily shot sex scene with panache (“No fellatio. It clogs my sinuses”).

Apart from Phyllida Law as Alex’s snooty mom, Lumley is the only player not left stranded by Sugarman’s direction, which thrashes around between “Carry On”-like comedy, exaggerated Brit stereotypes and technical trickery (speeded-up action, romantic slow motion, etc.).

Even the look of the film is all over the place, varying from bright poster colors to everyday realism, with Pierre Aim’s lensing at times slick and colorful, at times amateurishly lit like a ’70s British low-budgeter. Mark Thomas’ original score overdoses on the romantic side while a selection of 27 pop numbers wallpapers the rest of the pic.

A host of local media personalities, including Harrod’s owner Mohamed Al Fayed, cameo briefly, though their appearances will be lost on offshore auds. Lette herself pops up in a baby shop sequence.

Mad Cows

Production: An Entertainment Film Distributors release (in U.K.) of a Capitol Films, Newmarket Capital Group and Entertainment Distributors presentation of a Flashlight Films production. (International sales: Capitol, London.) Produced by Frank Mannion, Aaron Simpson. Executive producers, Sharon Harel, Jane Barclay, Chris J. Ball, William Tyrer. Co-producer, Liz Bunton. Directed by Sara Sugarman. Screenplay, Sugarman, Sasha Hails, based on the novel by Kathy Lette.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor London prints), Pierre Aim; editor, John Jympson; original music, Mark Thomas; music supervision, New State Entertainment; production designer, Joseph Nemec III; costume designer, Trisha Biggar; sound (Dolby Digital), Ian Voigt; associate producers, Sara Giles, Tom Pridmore; assistant director, Francesco Reidy; casting, Danielle Roffe. Reviewed at Warner Village West End 6, London, Oct. 30, 1999. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: Maddy - Anna Friel Gillian - Joanna Lumley Dwina Phelps - Anna Massey Alex's mother - Phyllida Law Alex - Greg Wise Politician - John Standing Slynne - Nicholas Woodeson Dr. Minny Stinkler - Prunella Scales

More Film

  • BTS' ‘Burn the Stage’ Claims Biggest

    BTS' 'Burn the Stage' Movie Claims Biggest-Ever Event Cinema Box Office Haul

    BTS concert movie has now garnered the biggest-ever box office haul for an event cinema release. “Burn the Stage: The Movie” has raked in $18.5 million around the world, distributor Trafalgar Releasing told Variety. The film follows Korean boy-band sensations BTS on their Wings tour, which was seen by more than 500,000 fans. The movie [...]

  • Kevin Hart Oscars Gay Tweet Controversy

    10 Things Every Celebrity Should Do When Making a Public Apology (Guest Column)

    It’s true. PR people are often called “apologists.” I don’t bristle at that description, because apologizing and getting it right is a crucial skill set for today’s crisis manager. Apologies are hard to do — they are humbling, irritating and often required during periods of high emotional pressure and agitation. I promise, we live in [...]

  • Eurimages Winning Project ‘The Jungle’ At

    8horses Producer Tolga Dilsiz Talks Eurimages Award Winner ‘The Jungle’ at Ventana Sur

    Swiss director Matthias Huser, whose 2014 Kaurismaki-ish debut, “They Chased Me Through Arizona” drew fans at Locarno, is with his 8horses producer Tolga Dilsiz participating in Ventana Sur’s project section, where the two are looking to court potential co-producers on their upcoming feature, “The Jungle.” At September’s San Sebastian Festival, the project won the Co-production [...]

  • Veteran thesp adds voice to Federico

    Oscar-Nominated Argentine Actress Norma Aleandro Heads to ‘Paradise’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Oscar-nominated Argentine actress Norma Aleandro will add her voice to “The Paradise” (El Paraiso), a noirish 2.5D animated feature directed by Federico Moreno Breser. Produced by Fernando Sirianni’s Nomad VFX, the project will take part in the Animation! Pitching Sessions in Ventana Sur this week. Set in 1920s Rosario – a city known as the [...]

  • Yellow Vests anti government protests with

    French Box Office Takes a Hit From 'Yellow Vests' Protests

    The violent “Yellow Vests” protests that have rocked France in recent weeks have also hit the movie business, dragging down local box-office performance in spite of several hit titles such as “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Le Grand Bain.” In Paris, where demonstrators rioted on three consecutive Saturdays, theatrical admissions recorded on Dec. 8 were about 20% lower than [...]

  • Oscars: 10 Standouts for This Year’s

    Oscars: 10 Standouts for This Year’s Best Picture Race

    With all of this year’s Oscar narratives thoroughly dissected and each of the contenders mapped out, it’s time for the first real assessment of this season’s best picture race in this space. Below are the top 10 players as we see it, with nominations just over a month away. (Also check out In Contention’s full [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content