leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
In this genteel black comedy, a small-town vicar's unhappy family finds an unlikely fairy godmother in their new housekeeper, who just happens to be a murderess. Forty-three years ago, polite, hugely pregnant Rosemary Jones (Emilia Fox) was arrested and sent to a mental hospital for murdering her husband and his mistress, then chopping them both into tiny pieces and packing them in a steamer trunk. Cut to the present, and to the dysfunctional household of absentminded Vicar Walter Goodfellow (Rowan Atkinson), who ministers to the spiritual needs of picturesque Little Wallop, England, population 57. His adolescent son, Petey (Toby Parkes), is bullied relentlessly by his classmates, his daughter, Holly (Tamsin Egerton), is fast developing into a teenage nymphomaniac, and his frustrated, foulmouthed wife, Gloria (Kristin Scott Thomas), is on the verge of running away with her sleazy American golf instructor (Patrick Swayze). Then Grace Hawkins (Maggie Smith) arrives, and things start looking up. The yappy dog next door that keeps Gloria up all night disappears, and chief bully Billy Martin (Rupert Simonian) has a nasty little accident when the brakes on his bicycle give way. Grace's gentle influence helps interest Holly in baking (anything other than boys is a welcome relief), gives the undersexed vicar a whole new perspective on the "Song of Solomon" and shores up Gloria's flagging self-confidence. She's an absolute marvel! But what's in that steamer trunk up in Grace's room? Director and cowriter Niall Johnson's black comedy falters at the end, but until then it manages to wring gentle humor from murder most well bred.