A Film Review by James Berardinelli
Date Released: varies
Running Length: 1:42
Rated: NR (Sex, discreet nudity, mature themes)
Starring: Mark Frankel, Janet Suzman, Brian Glover, Maryam D'Abo, Gina
Bellman, Connie Booth
Directors: Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean
Producers: Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean
Screenplay: Gary Sinyor and Michael Normand
Music: John Murphy and David Hughes
Released by Cinevista
British humor is often at its peak when it mixes droll wit with Monty
Pythonesque weirdness. This certainly isn't the perfect fare for mainstream
America, but for those who enjoy a touch of the bizarre with their laughter,
Leon the Pig Farmer makes an excellent one-hundred minute diversion.
Leon Geller (Mark Frankel) has reached a crisis point in his life.
Dissatisfied with the lying and cheating inherent in his job as a London real
estate agent, he quits. Frustrated with the futility of establishing a romantic
relationship with his best friend, Lisa (Gina Bellman), Leon shocks his very
proper Jewish family by engaging in a torrid affair with the non-Jewish
Madeleine (Maryam D'Abo), whom he meets after nearly running her over with his
car. Then, to cap off his troubles, Leon learns that he is the product of
artificial insemination, and that the sperm bank mixed up the test tubes. His
actual father is Brian Chadwick (Brian Glover) -- a pig farmer in Lower
Leon the Pig Farmer is a singularly entertaining motion picture. Its
co-directors, Gary Sinyor and Vadim Jean, have paced the film effectively (until
the very end, when everything sputters to an abrupt halt). The humor is spread
around evenly, avoiding long periods of stagnation between the funny parts.
There's a substantial dash of the unusual in Leon's comedy -- the sort of
material that brings to mind Monty Python or Black Adder. The
unexpected is often the greatest asset of such offbeat fare - and it's present
in abundance. How many women will invite a man to their apartment for a cup of
tea after nearly getting run down in the street by that person? How many times
do strangers approach someone to give advice on intimate matters? And how often
does the biological father of a kosher Jew turn out to be a pig farmer?
As enjoyable as all this zaniness is, there's a none-to- subtle message to go
along with it about being true to oneself. The directors don't have an axe to
grind, but they offer this for those who want substance amidst the silliness.
The cast contains a number of well-respected British actors, including Brian
Glover and Janet Suzman. Known primarily for dramatic roles, these two give
wonderful comic turns, proving that Leslie Nielsen isn't the only one who can
put a staid reputation to good use. Maryam D'Abo is marvellous as the manic
Madeleine, and hers is easily the standout performance. Mark Frankel, who plays
Leon, sometimes overacts his role (especially when he's around pigs), but he
generally displays a good knack for comedy. Connie Booth, a veteran of BBC
comedy, including Monty Python and Fawlty Towers (which she
co-created with then-husband John Cleese), has a supporting part.
It's easy to see why Leon has been such a hit on the film festival
circuit over the past year. It's a thoroughly charming movie in the same vein as
another little-known British comedy, Getting it Right. Don't let the
title put you off -- pigs or not, Leon is a charmer.
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