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Friday Film Review: Undertaking Betty

Undertaking Betty (aka Plots with a View) (2002)
Genre: Romance/Black Comedy
Grade: B-

I like Brenda Blethyn, Alfred Molina, Christopher Walken and Robert Pugh and the premise sounded fun so I rented this from Netflix not expecting more than an enjoyable hour and a half of entertainment. That’s about what I got. However it’s a cute film and if you’re looking for a popcorn movie, it’s a good choice.

“A woman (Brenda Blethyn) who’s husband (Robet Pugh) is cheating on her and an undertaker (Alfred Molina) who’s in love with her for ages, decide to fake her death so they can be together. However, the other town’s undertaker (Christopher Walken) who loves over-the-top funerals complicates things.”

At first, Betty comes off as a bit of a ‘put upon’ older wife. Her dictatorial husband Hugh married her for her money and because she was the daughter of the town mayor but has obviously never loved her while Boris Plots, as we see from the opening flashback, has loved her from afar for over 30 years. The two share a love for ballroom dancing and have even named their cats Fred and Ginger but it’s not until Hugh’s mother dies and her burial service is done by Plots that Boris finally works up the nerve to tell Betty how he feels.

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But Betty feels horrible at the thought of publicly leaving Hugh so the two cook up the scheme for Betty to ‘die’ and Boris to handle the funeral after which the two of them will be free to run off to Tahiti and ballroom dance to their hearts content. Unfortunately the other undertaker in town sticks a spanner in the wheels when he first tries to underbid Boris to handle the funeral, mainly for the publicity of burying the mayor’s wife, but later is so taken with how lifelike Betty looks at the funeral viewing that he just has to learn Boris’s trade secrets. Then Betty learns, during hilarious open coffin viewing confessionals by her cheating husband and his tramp-y mistress, of his long term adultery and she decides she just has to get her own back before leaving with Boris.

The movie has several Hollywood spectacle dance numbers for Molina and Blethyn which make them look pretty good as they hoof it up. There’s a funny comment in the featurette bonus from Molina about the horror of watching himself practice in a dance studio lined with mirrors. The fantasy funerals offered by Walken’s funeral parlor are just as funny (his motto is to put “fun” back in funerals) and include a Vegas style show funeral and Star Trek tribute that goes horribly wrong.

Walken’s attempts to learn what ‘special fluids’ Boris used to make Betty practically glow in the coffin (her husband says she hadn’t looked that good in 15 years), are hysterical. Watch for the scene where he and his assistant break into Plots and discover that Betty’s still alive. Betty’s revenge against her husband and his mistress goes slightly overboard but given the fantasy nature of the dance numbers it’s not too bad and has its funny moments.

“Undertaking Betty” is cute and as the film progresses, I found myself cheering for Betty and Boris to get their HEA, which we see as the film closes. Even Fred and Ginger share in the final dance number and we’re also shown how Betty gets her own back from Hugh while rewarding those who had been kind to her. It’s utter fantasy and a bit silly in places but also a sweet second chance at romance. B-

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

13 Comments

  1. Laine
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 04:53:22

    Here in Australia it’s called Plots With A View. I saw it some time ago and loved it – especially the Star Trek funeral.

    There are some very good British comedies that I have enjoyed in the last few years like Saving Grace andMrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War.

    ReplyReply

  2. jennifer armintrout
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 06:39:07

    I’ve never heard of this one, but it sounds awesome. To netflix!

    ReplyReply

  3. Jayne
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 06:52:56

    @Laine: I think I like the Australian title better!

    I’ve seen Saving Grace but never heard of the Cabbage War movie. Must investigate.

    ReplyReply

  4. Jayne
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 06:53:32

    @jennifer armintrout: It showed up as a rec for me at Netflix but before that, I’d never heard of it either.

    ReplyReply

  5. Bronte
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:09:34

    @Jayne: saving grace is freaking awesome, I don’t think i’d laughed so hard at a movie for years. I think
    I need to see this one also.

    ReplyReply

  6. Jayne
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:19:14

    @Bronte: Oh, I think Saving Grace is a riot. It’s been a few years since I saw it but I seem to recall a scene when she flips the switch to light up the plants and the lights flicker all through the town.

    ReplyReply

  7. L.A.D.
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:22:33

    Dear Christopher Walken,

    I will watch anything you are in. This movie? I’m all over it. All I needed to know…

    Undertaking Betty: Christopher Walken. The end.

    You have the ability to be bone chilling a la The Prophecy. You can be intimidating while being funny a la Excess Baggage (You totally stole the show on that one).

    You were in Basquiat. Anyone in that movie gets two points from me.

    So, yeah, who’s better than you? No one. This awesome review + your awesomeness = Me watching this movie.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:27:44

    @L.A.D.: Another movie I liked Walken in was True Romance. Didn’t care so much for the film but Walken was great.

    ReplyReply

  9. jody
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:28:33

    Must see this movie!

    L.A.D., have you seen a little hour-long movie called “Who Am I This Time?” It’s on Netflix streaming and a must-see for Walken fans.

    ReplyReply

  10. L.A.D.
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:39:23

    @Jayne: Yup, I love True Romance. You know who stole the show on that for me though? Gary Oldman doing the worst Jamaican accent EVER and wearing the dredlock wig while eating chinese food. Priceless.

    ReplyReply

  11. L.A.D.
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 08:41:52

    @jody: I think I might have to sign up with Netflix again. I signed up once to watch the three movies starring Prince and then I killed my account.

    ReplyReply

  12. Laine
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 09:34:25

    Mrs Caldicot’s Cabbage War stars Pauline Collins who also starred in Shirley Valentine.

    ReplyReply

  13. RowanS
    Mar 04, 2011 @ 11:28:47

    “Who Am I This Time” is one of the most underrated, brilliant bits of film nobody’s ever heard of. Walken and Susan Sarandon are just luminous in that movie.

    ReplyReply

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