Except for the lagging as the film introduces us to the inhabitants and the rhythms of Cold Comfort Farm, the whole thing builds nicely to the final wedding breakfast, where a dozen or so Starkadders and assorted peripherals gather, dressed to the nines with all their eccentricities spilling out the seams.
"Cold Comfort Farm" is another small victory rooted firmly in the enviable talent the British have for poking fun at themselves. The film makes great fun of a young Londoner down on her financial luck who decides to mooch off her country relatives. After all, what's a young thing to do when she's short on cash, doesn't play bridge, and has no prospects?
Flora Poste (Kate Beckinsale) plans to lift herself from this sorry state by becoming a writer, so she arrives at the farm with notebook in hand, an aspiring novelist in search of her writer's capital. Talentless with the written word, Flora finds her true calling in transforming the lives of her rural cousins, the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm.
The farm chugs along under the unseen hand of Aunt Ada Doom (Sheila Durrell), who opens her bedroom door only to retrieve the meal trays that are left outside it. As a child, you see, Ada received a crippling shock when she "saw something nasty in the woodshed"--something so awful she has yet to reveal what it was.
Downstairs, the dark and grungy place is inhabited by a marvelous assortment of farm animals and family, all wrapped in the cloak of despair that is Ada's gift to them. When Flora walks into this acre of decay, her orderly resourcefulness snaps immediately into the "on" position. She will tidy things up.
And what clay she has to work with: Ada herself; Judith (Eileen Atkins), who moans life away; Elfine (Marie Miles), the wisp who dances through the woods; Seth (Rufus Sewell), the family hunk who pines for Hollywood; and Uncle Amos (Ian McKellen), a preacher who whips them all into doom from the pulpit if they forget for a moment that doomed is what they are supposed to be. With the addition of Mrs. Smiling (Joanna Lumley) as Flora's eccentric friend, and Charlie, a kindhearted London sophisticate as her suitor, Director John Schlesinger is able to cut back and forth between rural and urban anecdotes to enliven his landscape.
Schlesinger has a very good time establishing the premise of rural decadence that is perfectly ripe for sprucing up by Flora, the efficient London cousin. Then he lets her loose to do her work of pulling from each nut case some comic kernel of redemption. Finding the kernels is a process, too slow by quite a bit, that gathers momentum in direct relation to our growing appreciation of this wonderfully graceless bunch.
Except for the lagging as the film introduces us to the inhabitants and the rhythms of Cold Comfort Farm, the whole thing builds nicely to the final wedding breakfast, where a dozen or so Starkadders and assorted peripherals gather, dressed to the nines with all their eccentricities spilling out the seams. Flora, the compulsive fussbudget, has salvaged every drop of human potential from her relatives, and the resolution of her tidy work is just short of howlingly funny.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 499
Studio : Gramercy Pictures
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h35m
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