Friday, December 23, 2011

Comfort and Joy

Comfort and Joy (1984)
Written and Directed by
Bill Forsyth
Starring Bill Paterson, Clare Grogan, Alex Norton, Roberto Bernardi, Eleanor David
IMDB Entry

Bill Forsyth made his reputation in the early 80s as the king of quirky characters.  His movies Gregory's Girl and Local Hero were set in his home -- Scotland -- and were memorable for offbeat characters who never did what was expected.  The latter was a nice success and he followed up with the delightful Comfort and Joy.

It's a movie about Allan "Dicky" Bird (Bill Paterson), a Glasgow radio DJ  whose life is falling apart because his long-term girlfriend left him.  While driving around morosely, he spots Charlotte (Clare Grogan*) on the back of a "Mr. Bunny" ice cream truck and impulsively follow it, only to witness two mask thugs smash up the truck with lead pipes.  He finds himself in the middle of a battle between two rival gangs -- of ice cream vendors:  Trevor ("Mr. Bunny") and the Godfather-like Mr. McCool.  In order to impress Charlotte, he decides to mediate between the two factions.

The movie abounds in Forsyth's small comic moments.  The attack on the truck, for instance, has the driver defend himself by squirting raspberry sauce in the attackers eyes.  Then, just before leaving, one of the thugs recognizes Bird and requests he play a song on his next show.  I especially loved the revelation of how they recorded the "Hello, folks!" music that was Mr. Bunny's theme (at about 1:10).

The movie is set around Christmas, which gives Bird a way to resolve the feud.

The movie got decent reviews when it came out, but did only so-so in the box office, and far less than Forsyth's previous Local Hero.  Forsyth made the mistake of moving to Hollywood; his next film, Housekeeping, didn't make much of a splash** and his other US films were disappointing.  He tried a sequel to Gregory's Girl in 1999, but could not recapture the magic.

*Grogan later played another object of a man's romantic obsession as the original Kristine Kochansky in Red Dwarf.

**I haven't seen the film, but I have read the book.  A real downer, especially compared to the humor that caused Forsyth to be noticed.


Anonymous said...

This is a charming movie. It's at its best with a glass of eggnog and cookies. Forsyth was a great director of quirky movies, a real shame he didn't continue.

Unknown said...

This is my favorite Forsyth movie. In fact, it's one of my favorite movies bar none. Thanks for "remembering" it on the blog.