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  Laughterhouse Wild Goose Chase
Year: 1984
Director: Richard Eyre
Stars: Ian Holm, Penelope Wilton, Bill Owen, Richard Hope, Stephen Moore, Stephanie Tague, Aran Bell, Rosemary Martin, Patrick Drury, C.J. Allen, Dave Atkins, Norman Fisher, Kenneth MacDonald, Patrick Connor, Tim Seely, Pearl Hackney, Eric Richard
Genre: Comedy, DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Times are hard for poultry farmer Ben Singleton (Ian Holm), as the union has just decided to pull out his pluckers on strike, and not only that but one of his men has accidentally cut off his finger in a plucking machine on Singleton's property. The red tape around this situation means there is no way he can get his geese slaughtered in time for the Christmas rush, and his home life is fraught as a result, especially with his wife Alice (Penelope Wilton) who has constant arguments with him. He has had enough of this, and sets his mind on a solution: he will walk his geese to market - from Norfolk to London.

By the end of his career, Brian Glover was best known in his native Britain for narrating television ads for teabags, which somewhat overshadowed his other achievements: acting mostly, but also professional wrestling and, occasionally, writing. Laughterhouse, or Singleton's Pluck as it was also known, was the only feature film he wrote, and the last script he ever had adapted, but for some it was the ideal antidote to syrupy sweet Christmas fare, even if it was nowhere near as popular as those types of seasonal entertainment.

The film walks a tightrope between the harsh realities of farming life in eighties Britain and a more sentimental, "we can do it" go-getting attitude that grows more apparent the longer the it goes on. In fact, so keen is the drama to rub your nose in how tough life is for a farmer who refuses to give in to the ways of factory production that it gets rather wearing, and all the conflict and rowing can test the patience. It helps that we can understand how desperate Singleton is, but it does not help that he is stubborn to the point of shutting everybody else off.

This includes his daughter Emma (Stephanie Tague), who Alice is worrying about, but when Singleton sets out on his journey, he takes Emma with him, providing a chance to bond over the feathered friends. Presently, Alice joins them, and the whole family are offered the opportunity to put aside their differences so they can do something positive instead. In essence, Laughterhouse is a British road movie, a rare beast due to the shortness of journeys on that island, but with the characters travelling at goose pace there are more incidents to fit in.

Singleton's mission brings the attention of the media looking for a cute story to fill up the Yuletide news broadcasts, so there is now a list of modern things that the film is criticising: the heavy-handed, shooting themselves in the foot unions, the wealthy factory farmers forcing the smaller businesses into dire straits, and the media who will exploit the public for the sake of a couple of minutes on the TV every night (the TV crew even let loose the geese at one point, so they can have something to report on). In fact, the geese are the most endearing part of the film, and you become quite attached to them as they waddle down country lanes, making their eventual fate all the more of a shame - Glover does not sugarcoat this aspect, and that is perfectly fair. You are interested to see if Singleton and company succeed, but they're an offputting and surly bunch, so that feelgood factor is notable in its absence, even if there is a happy ending (though not for the geese). Music by Dominic Muldowney.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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