Funny Cow is literally Maxine Peake’s show, as she narrates her tough life – and the film – from a later point of success through a televised monologue. Her no-nonsense honesty is reminiscent of a Victoria Wood piece or Julie Walters role, which puts the audience in the right headspace for the chuckles and struggles that lie ahead.
There are humorous moments in Funny Cow – it’s about standup comedy, and the odd famous face cameos – but it’s grim, and has bite. Unapologetically northern, Funny Cow authentically presents experiences of working-class life from post-war Britain (when a bathtub in the yard is a pool) through to the ’70s.
Funny Cow is at first Funny Calf (the brilliant Macy Shackleton), who even then deflects a lot of the rage thrown her way – “Are you angry? You seem angry.” This, sadly, becomes a pattern for her life and delivers a lot of Funny Cow’s heartache as she struggles to escape the limited experiences her childhood taught her to expect.
When Funny Cow chooses to go against the establishment and break into comedy is where the film makes unexpected and effective choices. The jokes are crude and dated, to match the harsh audience of the working men’s clubs she haunts. Her reluctant mentor (a prickly Alun Armstrong) is a sub-par, tired comic, but still laughs off her ambition because women simply aren’t – and can’t be – funny. Even the fascinatingly-cast, gentle Paddy Considine may be victim to his own narrow views.
Huge kudos to Tony Pitts for writing, producing and terrorising as Funny Cow’s thuggish husband – Funny Cow’s voice is so genuine, matches Maxine Peake’s performance so well and has a storyline that rings so true, you expect it to have been written by a woman. And that’s a massive compliment.
CAST: Maxine Peake, Alun Armstrong, Paddy Considine, Stephen Graham, Tony Pitts, Lindsey Coulson
DIRECTOR: Adrian Shergold
WRITER: Tony Pitts
SYNOPSIS: A woman who has a funny bone for a backbone.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]