WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Betty, a bored housewife in a loveless marriage, decides to fake her own death to be with the local undertaker, the man she truly loves. But when another competing funeral director and a hussy thatís having an affair with Bettyís husband enter the picture, things get a little bit more complicated. Think SHIRLEY VALENTINE meets I LOVE YOU TO DEATH.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Itís rather strange that this film was made way back in 2002 and originally had the title PLOTS WITH A VIEW. (Much better then UNDERTAKING BETTY!) Was this film just languishing in Miramax purgatory or was it one of those films that got lost in the cracks? There are rumblings of how this film, thatís a comedy about death, was a hard sell, hence the delay, but itís not whatís wrong with this picture. In fact, the comedy here, which mostly consists of wacky funeral ceremonies held by the flamboyant character (is there any other kind for this guy?) played by Christopher Walken and Naomi Watts (obviously early in her career!) as a mistress with pep. The comedy seems out of place, not because of the subject matter, but because the flip side to this film is so well acted and breathtaking. The relationship between Betty and Boris, the undertaker she finds herself in love with, is so subtle and moving, it definitely deserved its own movie. Itís these scenes, of stolen and honest moments, dancing together (not the ridiculous large scale fantasy number!), being in love, when the film really hits the right notes. All the rest is fodder for the unromantic and itís a shame that Director Hurran didnít know what gems he had.
The moving work by Blethyn and Molina, as Betty and Boris respectively, is the glue that holds this very uneven film together. It reminded me of another film called SHIRLEY VALENTINE, a wonderful movie about an older woman who wants to experience life, not just watch it pass by. Blethyn is far too good for this rather trite material, but she still manages to create a woman who has an inner beauty that far outshines her outer. And Molina, who is always solid, I find works best in those quiet and reflective bits, and this one is no different. For every Walken weirdo gag (not his fault, the script is all over the place!), there is in turn a precious Molina moment that reminds you why he is such a revered performer. All others are relegated to over the top comedic work, from of course Walken (is there anything weird he wonít do?), to his bumbling assistant Lee Evans (better in SOMETHING ABOUT MARY!), to even Watts, who is featured on the cover of the DVD, but is merely background eye candy in this outing. UNDERTAKING BETTY needed to take a step back and see what it had. It may have started as a bumbling farce, but with the magical and touching work of Blethyn and Molina, it turned into something far better. Itís just too bad the rest of the film doesnít come up to the bar set by these two because when theyíre on screen together, UNDERTAKING BETTY re-animates and comes back to life.
Another bare bones release from the folks at Miramax, meaning no commentary, no deleted scenes, much ado about nothing. Do they really expect people to buy this film, as opposed to simply renting it? And if they do, why?
The Fun In The Funeral: The Making Of Undertaking Betty (6:46): A very short, but succinct min-doc, with interviews taken from the set from all the leading cast and crew. Not mind blowing, but enough to keep those who like the film interested. Loved hearing that both Molina and Blethyn had didnít know how to dance. Canít dance? Couldíve fooled me!
Not even any damn previews; you guys are getting cheap!
Itís hard when there are elements that make a picture memorable, but theyíre in a film thatís mostly flawed - it stops you from fully recommending it. UNDERTAKING BETTY is a farce without the funny , but at its core, has a lot of heart and wears it on its sleeve. The fantastic and subtle work by leads Blethyn and Molina make me itch for a film where the two of them could just shine alone together, without the intrusion of a gag or joke. But sometimes those few moments in a film are enough to make it worth watching and in this case, it is. As a title, UNDERTAKING BETTY, a jerky name that promotes wackiness, should have been lost. PLOTS WITH A VIEW is more aptly fitting, as it seems to give the promise of a grave that overlooks something beautiful and after watching these two at work, I wouldn't want to be buried anywhere else.