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United Kingdom 1984
Directed by
Malcolm Mowbray
92 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Private Function, A

Written by Alan Bennett from a story by he and director Malcolm Mowbray A Private Function is a delightfully self-deprecating comedy that revels in the drabness of post-war Yorkshire.

Reuniting Michael Palin, Maggie Smith and Denholm Elliot who had appeared together for the same production company, Handmade Films, in 1982’s The Missionary, this time round  is a more consistently amusing effort and even gets better as it goes along, a difference that no doubt can be attributed to Bennett’s skill as a writer.

Palin plays Gilbert, the ineffectual chiropodist husband of social-climbing Joyce (Maggie Smith) smarting under the straitened circumstances of ration-booked England. When, out of a desperate attempt to silence his wife’s complaints, Gilbert steals a pig intended for a VIP function to celebrate the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Joyce gets her chance to wield some power over her "betters".  .

Bennett’s script captures perfectly the farcicality of English petit-bourgeois manners and a fabulous cast (Smith and Elliot deservedly won BAFTAs for their performances) that also includes Richard Griffiths, Pete Postlethwaite and Liz Smith, deliver it with relish whilst stage director Mowbray making his feature film debut is unobtrusively faithful to its essentially theatrical nature.

DVD Extras: None

Available from: Umbrella Entertainment




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