Adrian Shergold directs Maxine Peake, Paddy Considine and Tony Pitts in this drama about a working class Northern woman who escapes poverty and violence by becoming a Working Man’s Club comedian.
A Richard Hawley from The Longpigs soundtrack. A setting in the 1970s cabaret scene (before Alternative Comedy and observational stand-up). A lead movie performance from left-wing National Treasure Maxine Peak. There was a lot that attracted me to Funny Cow on paper. I missed it at the cinema due to the only screenings being available in my free time being Mother & Baby exclusive. I’m going to be honest… it wasn’t the film I was expecting. It is grimmer and grittier than you’d ever want it to be, with a couple of later lurches into tragedy bursting the bubble of believability. You’ll know the bit of extremely forced pathos I mean if you’ve seen it. Funny Cow isn’t in any interpretation a feelgood film… it often makes Ken Loach’s similar brand of polemic feel comparatively fluffy and carefree. The storytelling shifts fluidly through time, playfully… but often just to rush us into the next bludgeoning moment of misery. The working men’s club scene is recreated with accuracy. They don’t soft sell the protagonist and pretend she was an original voice or anachronistically didn’t give the audiences the racism they were used to. The victory here is the balls she found to get up on stage and go against everyone’s preconception of her, and women in comedy in general. In that respect the film does not strike a false note. It clearly is a passion project of Peake’s and you do have to wonder what BAFTA were thinking when she wasn’t nominated. She completely commits to a wild, often unsympathetic and abrasive turn. It saves the film from its self pitying urges. I suppose the luvvies have their own reasons and their own darlings. Worth a punt if you don’t want a fun night in.
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