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Toronto Film Review: ‘The Grump’

A stubborn, set in his ways, 80-year-old farmer from rural Finland rants about the modern world in this broad satire.

With:
Antti Litja, Petra Frey, Mari Perankoski, Iikka Forss. (Finnish, Russian, English dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2480454/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

A stubborn, set-in-his-ways, 80-year-old farmer from rural Finland rants about the modern world in “The Grump,” a broad satire that represents the sixth feature from helmer Dome Karukoski. Following his 2013 drama “Heart of a Lion,” helmer Karukoski returns to the comedy-of-bad behavior mode of his 2010 box office hit “Lapland Odyssey” with an over-the-top character already featured in popular books by co-screenwriter Tuomas Kyro, as well as a radio drama series starring Finnish thesp Antti Litja (who plays the lead here). Already sold to German-speaking Europe and Turkey, this comic romp boasts the sort of humor thatcan be appreciated by anyone who thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

The Grump is both an old-school Everyman and a force of nature; when he is not happy, his is not the only day that is ruined. He holds some politically incorrect views, a remnant of the good old days, when, according to him, children weren’t spoiled and people didn’t spend money on useless things. But he also exudes solid virtues and believes in taking care of his loved ones, such as his Alzheimer’s-afflicted wife (Petra Frey), whom he visits daily in her care home.

After a bad fall necessitates some physical therapy, the plaid-shirt-and-suspenders-wearing protagonist heads to Helsinki, to the home of his ineffectual intellectual son (Iikka Forss) and bossy daughter-in-law, Liisa (Mari Perankoski). He’s accompanied by numerous string-tied cardboard boxes that hold his necessities, as well as a stream-of-consciousness voice-over narration that’s working overtime in complaint mode.

The Grump’s dialogue is all grumbles, too, something that quickly gives businesswoman Liisa a headache. As the breadwinner of the family, she doesn’t cotton to be called “Young Missus” or being told that women shouldn’t drive. Of course, the young couple’s ultra-modern home gets on the Grump’s nerves, and he can’t credit the fact that they drink herbal teas rather than coffee. As the Grump pursues the first of his several cups a day, the helmer elicits some too-easy chuckles over the eponymous character’s struggles with the digital range and Liisa’s constantly ringing cell phone.

Rather than have her restless guest clamber up ladders or clean out the garage, Liisa piles him into the car as she races to the airport to pick up the Russian businessmen with whom she needs to close a major deal. But members of the Grump’s generation have complicated feelings toward their superpower neighbor, and he’s not one to hold his tongue.

Happily, though, the co-scripters make what initially looks like a catastrophe evolve into a touching story about tolerance and closing the generation gap. Along the way, they give the film and their irascible lead some depth and heart by including poignant archival footage and photos of the good old days that he constantly references. (Per press notes, Karukoski made the film for his own father, a man of strong habits.)

Looking especially cute in his beaver hat with long furry flaps, the burly 76-year-old Litja excels as an overgrown Dennis the Menace; the rest of the cast can’t help but pale next to him. Attractively (if somewhat cartoonishly) shot in widescreen by Karukoski’s go-to lenser, Pini Hellstedt, marking his fourth outing with the helmer, the tech package is solidly pro. The Finnish title translates literally as “the Man Who Gets Upset About Things.”

Toronto Film Review: 'The Grump'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 5, 2014. Running time: 104 MIN. (Original title: ‘Mielensapahoittaja’)

Production: (Finland-Iceland) A Nordisk Film release of a Solar Films production, in co-production with the Icelandic Film Co., with the support of the Finnish Film Foundation, the Icelandic Film Centre, Nordisk Film & TV Fund, MTV3 Finland, Nordisk Film. (International sales: the Yellow Affair, Helsinki.) Produced by Markus Selin, Jukka Helle. Co-producers, Ingvar Thordarson, Julius Kemp.

Crew: Directed by Dome Karukoski. Screenplay, Tuomas Kyro, Karukoski, adapted from original novels by Kyro. Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Pini Hellstedt; editor, Harri Ylonen; music, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson; production designer, Betsy Angerman-Engstrom; costume designer, Anna Vilppunen; sound, Tuomas Klaavo.  

With: Antti Litja, Petra Frey, Mari Perankoski, Iikka Forss. (Finnish, Russian, English dialogue)

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