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until death does you part

movie review :: just buried

perhaps it's a nervous reflex born of a fear of my own mortality, but there's very little that says "funny" to me like a dead body. after all, dealing with anxieties is easy if you can laugh at them. unfortunately, a lot more people attempt to create dark humour than ever succeed at it (as with most things), so i'm always a little wary when i'm told about a new film in the genre.

dark comedy done well requires a premise that sits on the line between ridiculous and believable, a group of actors who have to keep poker faces, to convince an audience that they really don't see the humour in the situation at all and an appeal to intellect rather than simply going for the easy laugh. fortunately, this is a movie with all of these things.

the story centres on oliver, a rather hapless, stereotypical nerd who has his late father's (a hilarious cameo appearance by east coast character and actor jeremy akerman) funeral home business foisted on him after the father's death. the business is in decline (the extent of which is only slowly revealed to our hero, but receives a new lease on life (go ahead, groan) when oliver accidentally runs down a local eccentric after a night of drinking with roberta, the comely mortician in his employ. from there, bodies start to accumulate, as oliver and roberta try desperately to cover the initial crime and keep the business afloat.

the acting is excellent all around, in particular canadian stalwart graham greene does a perfect deadpan (again, groan) in a role that was literally written for him and rose byrne, as roberta, is outstanding. the city boy in slightly creepy small town idea has been done to death, but the film has no winks to the audience, no acknowledgment that what's happening isn't real.

the writing is clever and a good deal nastier than a typical hollywood film in this genre. the story does flag a little about three quarters of the way through, but recovers quickly for an ending that is refreshingly unpredictable (again, departing from the "big film" norms).

charming and creepy in equal measure.

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