Comedy and drama go hand in hand. They are best friends, courting one another in a platonic affair as they twist through our lives. Situations are coveted by these emotions; genres of humanity that follow one after another and, sometimes, simultaneously. Laughter is often heard at funerals, tears often spent through jokes, and smiles can so easily be frowns.
The best comedy films and the best comics usually derive their humour from pain and anguish. This is greatly showcased in the absolute poignant film Funny Cow.
Starring Maxine Peake in the titular role, the film revolves around a stand-up comic who, through a series of vignettes and television specials, goes over her life to an audience. Flitting back to her past, “Funny Cow” tackles the trauma of living with an abusive father, alcoholic mother, distant brother, and, later, an equally vile husband. Whilst stuck in this vicious cycle of mistreatment, the woman keeps her spirits up with a weird and courageous sense of humour, eventually learning to pull away from her humdrum and vicious life.
Also starring Paddy Considine and Tony Pitts (who also wrote film,) Funny Cow is the ironically titled ode to lively personalities. You know those people, the one with sadness glinting in their eyes behind the smile, those who suffer with a smile, and those who chuckle in the face of adversity (literally at times). This is a movie that captures a person like a cinematic poem, the grit of living shaped into a beautiful big screen ballad. Pitts’ script is lucid, flowing from past and future like an infinite number 8 as Funny Cow bemuses on the steps that have made her. The movie is a journey; one character finding salvation within herself and wielding her personality like a sword, rather than a shield. This self-assured debut feature script for Pitts may not land all its punchlines but there is a palpable poignancy and an in-depth character study on a women battling against life yet confident she’ll have the first and the last laugh.
Maxine Peake is the very best person for the role. Despite the fact that Tony Pitts wrote it ten years ago, it seems as though he wrote it just for her. She gets the nuances of Funny Cow and her solace so well that she encompasses every grain of her life. From a crooked smile to a sly joke delivery, Peake is an astonishing anti-heroine who eschews the normalcy of society in order to find her own beat. She is so captivating to watch that you could very easily watch the film, however rancorous, and revisit it straight after.
There is one view point that her stage presence is merely a crux in her own head. That she has not actually made it but, to get through the worst of her life, she imagines herself in the glitz and glam of showbiz world, ruminating on the world that has crafted her. In that respect, Funny Cow does demand multiple viewings as you unpack this unfathomable character and her morose world. Director Adrian Shergold develops an intriguing movie that has the hues of the seventies (and then eighties) era and has brought a vibrant woman into a melancholy world. With the help of some impressive performances, a uniquely written script, and a beguiling story, Funny Cow may not hit you with a massive comedy routine, but you’ll laugh bitterly alongside the drama.
Funny Cow is out in cinemas 20th April!