Cold Comfort Farm (1996)

Written by Malcolm Bradbury, based on the novel by Stella Gibbons
Directed by John Schlesinger
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Eileen Atkins, Sheila Burrell, Stephen Fry, Freddie Jones, Ian McKellen, Miriam Margolyes, Rufus Sewell, Joanna Lumley


Released by Universal
Rating: PG
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Rent it.

Flora Poste (Beckinsale) has a problem. She's been orphaned recently, you see, and she doesn't have much of an income left to her by her parents. As a result, she decides to move to the country and join some whacked out relatives, the Starkadders, she has there at the titular location. There she finds an aunt who never leaves her room (Burrell), her daughter who tries to hold it all together (Atkins), her son Seth (Sewell) who would rather be in showbiz and her brother Amos (McKellen) who's a nutcase preacher. Can Flora overcome her genre and "save" her relatives? And can she overcome the nasty secret in the woodshed?

My favorite part of this story is that it's lampooning the subgenre of "British girls with hardships." You know what I'm talking about: girl turned out into the world to fend for herself finds shelter at some distant place/job/family locale and must toil and sweat and suffer and yet somehow find romance. Or tragedy. Or both. It's enough to make most people violently ill. Part of Farm's charm is that it is such a perfect sendup of the standard bits. Rather than allow herself to be tossed about on the waves of fortune, Flora is another version of the Interloper that I've discussed recently, and she works to change her surroundings rather than let them weigh down upon her.

Beckinsale's ability to work undaunted in character against such a voracious gang of loonies all acting their asses off speaks volumes for her prowess. Also a standout is McKellen, long before he went into uber-franchise mode (though we still love him), working that brimstone for all it's worth. Merit must be given to Burrell, whose schtick about the woodshed is just so perfectly and obscenely over the top.

It's a shame that there's only the film's trailer on here to commend this, but I can't get too terribly upset--after having lived with it either on television or on pan and scan VHS, I'm just pleased as hell that it's finally on DVD and in widescreen. Still, it would have been nice to have had even the obligatory fifteen minute featurette regarding adapting the book, talking to the cast and crew and whatnot. A little mint left on our cinematic hotel pillows, so to speak.

If you're a fan of that subgenre of fiction--or you know someone who is--then this is worth at least a rental, if not a definite purchase. It's too delightfully sick and too deliciously a sendup to be denied.

Discuss the review in the Gabfest!

Greetings to our visitors from the IMDB, OFCS, and Rotten Tomatoes!
Stick around and have some coffee!