VOD film review: Funny Cow
Ivan Radford | On 28, Feb 2018
Director: Adrian Shergold
Cast: Maxine Peake, Paddy Considine, Alun Armstrong
Watch Funny Cow online in the UK: All 4 / BritBox UK / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Sky Store
What do you call a film about comedy that’s not a comedy? Funny Cow is the answer, as it throws us into the comedy halls of the 1980s, a place of un-pC, cringe-inducing jokes that aren’t amusing on any level – and, in fact, are offensive on many. Pierrepoint and Mad Dogs director Adrian Shergold recreates that world with a horribly awkward accuracy, and cuts through it all with an acerbic knife.
That acidic force comes from Maxine Peake, who is excellent as the eponymous Funny Cow, a woman whose name we never learn. What we do learn, though, is everything we need to know about her – she’s a tough fighter, a go-getter who doesn’t necessarily realise that what she’s going to get may not be worth getting. Peake is wonderful, immersing herself in a character who’s spiky, offensive, caustic, witty, loud and every bit herself.
After escaping from her father (a horribly convincing Stephen Graham), she finds herself with an equally horrid husband (Tony Pitts), before winding up in the arms of the timid, middle-class Angus (a wonderful Paddy Considine). But it’s perhaps her scenes with Lenny (Alun Armstrong), a fellow stand-up comic, that really shine – because unlike all the other relationships in her life, their back-and-forth allows her to flourish on her own terms, as she gradually, assuredly demonstrates that his misconception that women aren’t funny is entirely inaccurate.
The result is like watching working-class Britain’s answer to The Marvellous Mrs Maisel, a confident, deceptively stylish portrait of a stand-up comic prepared to stand up in the face of sexism – even if, as a product of her time, she isn’t standing up against homophobia or racism. She’s a survivor, not a game-changer, and that’s enough to win over those sitting on the back row.
Funny Cow is available on BritBox, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription. It is also available on All 4 until 14th June 2021.