Funny Cow (2017) Poster


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Double sided sword of abuse
PipAndSqueak29 April 2018
Funny Cow is the insulting name given to the young woman who dreams of becoming a stand-up comedienne. She is funny and funny-peculiar. Not surprising as she has an alcoholic, neglectful and depressed mother and a foul mouthed and physically abusive father. The odd thing is that, even at a young age, Funny Cow knows her family situation is not normal. She learns effective methods to disarm the violence meted out against her - and it is the first thing she asks of the old comedian she tries to emulate. How do you rise up over the abuse? This is indeed a very interesting question and one we see Funny Cow address. However, she is still too funny-peculiar for the average person to learn much...but perhaps they should try. All the actresses playing Funny Cow at her various ages manage to merge seamlessly. Well cast, well directed and some fine acting. Only one person threatens to upstage these ladies and that is Diane Morgan whose exposure in the lead role of Cunk on Britain makes us want to see more of her here. No, it's not a funny film but, it does have some lovely one-liners. Just enough humour to compensate for the very sad tales this film depicts.
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It's about Comedy, but it's not a Comedy. Doesn't matter, its a good movie that'll make you think.
hunterhub18 November 2018
Many people who have commented on this movie seem to have been somewhat misled by the title. Perhaps they were expecting Monty Python irreverence, a ventriloquist with a bovine puppet, or at the very least a new Wallace & Gromit adventure.

It may not be funny in the realms of a deep belly laugh, but if you like your humour blacker than coal then there are enough things in here to make you chuckle at least. The soundtrack by Richard Hawley is excellent and helps set the dark tone of the whole movie.

The movie has two central themes: the struggle of women in the 70's to be seen more than just a housewife, or an object owned by a man, "woman aren't funny", "where's my dinner" that sort of nonsense; The other theme is where does humour come from? What drives the people who make us laugh?

The theme of being more than a housewife treads familiar territory. Abusive father, abusive husband, sexist attitudes by the men in charge, woman struggles to prove how good she is. Whilst historically accurate, it is the least interesting part of the movie. In 2018 we know the struggle for equality has largely been successful and although there is still a way to go, if you are funny you will get a gig if you are black, white, Chinese, a woman, or indeed a combination of any of those. There is a great scene in a club where Funny Cow is doing her second gig. The crowd, not used to seeing a woman on stage is hostile. A heckler steals a few punchlines, admittedly from tired old gags, and Funny Cow after briefly being taken aback, just dismantles him gag by gag. Within 30 seconds the crowd are eating out of her hand. Funny is truly equal opportunity and has no sex, race or creed.

When the film starts to look at where the humour comes from, it becomes much more interesting and dramatic. This theme is played out by the heroine, Funny Cow and a tired, down trodden old comic that Funny Cow is trying to learn the trade from. Both Alun Armstrong and Maxine Peak are brilliant in these roles, getting inside the dark, tortured place that seems to be inhabited by many stand up comedians and showing what a heavy price is paid for their gift of making people laugh.

Armstrong is just simply superb as he flounders on stage, resorting to racist jokes as he seeks out the laughs he craves like a drug. The sheer desperation in his eyes, in complete contrast to the smile on his lips and the humorous words he is dishing out to the audience. Painful to watch, but somehow compelling drama.

Funny Cow is made of much tougher stuff and wears her humour like kevlar armour to deflect the pain of the beatings, abuse and the sheer bloody boredom of being a housewife. Peake portrays her tough, whip smart persona with just the right amount of vulnerability to show her human side and reveal the damage done to her by her tough upbringing.

No, Funny Cow isn't a comedy, or a stand up show, but nevertheless it is a compelling drama with a few chuckles, a brilliant soundtrack and some first rate acting.
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Bleak but entertaining
unyan25 April 2018
Maxine Peake is on top form as a conflicted maverick in seventies Yorkshire who rails against the endless stream of male violence ,human indifference and suffering with her dry wit. The film tips a huge nod to kitchen sink dramas like Saturday night Sunday morning and there's no flinching away from the racist /sexist/homophobic jokes of the era. This film is not for everyone but does provide lots of humorous lines and moments amid the relentless misery. Cameos agogo - even Corrine Bailey Rae gets a look in !
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A hidden gem
bbewnylorac27 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Not many cinemas will screen this independent little British drama. But it's a well made, heartfelt period piece that rewards your patience and attention. It's about a woman in the 1970s in working class Yorkshire who is determined to become a comedian, despite huge barricades she must overcome. Such as poverty, an abusive father, sexism, an abusive husband, and her own fear of failure. Somehow she knows that a better life is out there, and she manages to hang on to that dream, against the odds. In the lead role, Maxine Peake is great, as someone who won't take no for an answer, and is courageous in leaving relationships that aren't working. She is good at rising above people who treat her badly - e.g. when she visits her adult brother, and he and his wife are hostile to Funny Cow because the wife, for some unknown reason, dislikes Funny Cow. We see the spark of perseverance she had as a child, and she never loses that. The script, by Tony Pitts, is rich and taut. The pacing is good. Sometimes the accents are very thick but you do get used to them in the end. Alun Armstrong (New Tricks) is a joy to watch as Lenny - the crusty old vaudeville style comedian who Funny Cow latches on to as her mentor, even though, at first, he tells her that women can't be comedians. Paddy Considine has a meaty role as Funny Cow's intellectual boyfriend, who is kind and loving, but who she doesn't love. The film is a stylist's and costume designer's dream. Don't see this film if you're against smoking - all the characters drink like fish, and they smoke so much I almost started coughing. It's authentic to the period, though.
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"Do you believe in free speech?"
kevin c28 October 2018
Funny Cow is one of those British gems. Brutal, bleak, tender and comic. Only we can do this.

Set in the 1970's working men's clubs. It's a world of sweat, smoke; racism and sexism. We also have flashbacks to a 1950's childhood of poverty and domestic violence. Funny Calf (love that) is full of energy, mischief and defiance..

Men do not fare well in this film. Either beer-stained and openly violent, or sophisticated, affluent and weak Considine.

My favourite moment are the auditions for a "Search For A Star." Great cameos from John Bishop and Vic Reeves. The film's climax where she swears and tells racist, homophobic jokes is shocking. But it shouldn't be diluted, and the audience is delighted to hear her just as coarse and aggressive as any male comedian of the period.

Not everything works.The storyline is choppy and episodic, leaping randomly back and forth in time. It's disconcerting to see Stephen Graham as nasty father one moment, net curtain-twitching brother the next. Even Funny Cow seems remote at times, but it's great stuff from Peake.
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challenging in the best of ways.
naughtysnappy29 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Complex, funny, deeply upsetting. Unflinching depictions of misogyny, domestic violence, suicide as well as racist humour. I don't understand the comments elsewhere about two dimensional characters and the grim oop north stereotype. The mother/daughter relationship was complicated and beautiful. The protagonist compelling. The period detail was really evocative and oppressive. I also loved the various cameos and Hawley's music. I never thought I'd say I understand why the racism is there but I did. I certainly wasn't fine with the use of some really offensive words and lazy stereotypes by such a likeable protagonist (my friends and I squirmed throughout!) but having her not use those words and notions would be whitewashing over how these spaces were and how pervasive right wing attitudes were (and still are) and that I thought was really brave. Well worth watching. Peake's performance was brilliant.
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Unflinching look at a dysfunctional era
alan_darwin5 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a big fan of anything Paddy Considine. Funny Cow is tough going sometimes, but then it should be. The topics covered; dysfunctional family life, misogyny, domestic violence, racism, sexism are shown as they are/were. Maxine Peak carries the story, a survivor, aware even at a young age that things "aren't right". Alun Armstrong as the washed up tragi-comic oozes despair. There are some great cameos amid the bleak back-to-backs of the 70s north. Well worth a look if you like fins like Tyrannosaur or Dead Man's Shoes. A meaty, gritty, unflinching tale.
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A challenging view of the 70s stand up scene
nogbadthebad-2032721 April 2018
I've thought about this film more after seeing it than any other film I can remember. There are great performances from the central cast, and some amusing cameos, but I was drawn more to the story of Funny Cow's life. Some of it made uncomfortable watching, but I think that was the whole point.
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Not a comedy.
torrascotia15 April 2018
Having just returned from a screening I have to say this was a bit disappointing. The movie is being billed as a comedy however there is very little comedy to be found. The blurb gives the impression this is a comedy about an up and coming female comedian, however its more than halfway through the movie before she arrives on stage. There is only one scene when she is on stage and it only lasts a few mins. This is not a movie which has much to say about the world of stand up comedy. Its more of a biography which jumps back and forward over time which can be confusing. This is more one of those kitchen sink type dramas where almost every male in the film is a useless woman beater. Its a bit like Blonde Fist without the boxing. There are a number of recurring people throughout the film however there is no depth to them, her father is physically abusive, her mother an eventual alcoholic but there is no detail as to how these people seem to have ended up this way. They just "are" and that is all there is to it. She also has a brother who is played by the same actor as her father which was odd, there seems to be an issue with the relationship with her brother but again this isn't explored. Its just a confusing movie to watch as alot of the scenes seem to bet set up as comedic but the punchlines failed to land. Very people laughed during the movie with a full house. As far the main protagonist goes she isn't a likeable person either, she like the rest of the cast seem fairly one dimensional, which is a shame as the cast is excellent for a small budget film. Its a difficult movie to watch and an even more difficult one to enjoy. Its emotionally draining and has no pay off. Enough said.
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Rise up and laugh
maureenbuchan26 July 2018
Somber ,but a good study of a woman who managed via her wry view to achieve success in a man comedic world ... Though the darkness we saw a flower bloom . Her jokes were off but this was an era when cruss was fash ..I must confesses the outrangesness certainly did raise a laugh ... This was a period piece . My comments would not be complete without mention if the excellent soundtrack ..
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A bleak tragicomedy, very well observed but also deeply flawed
willst014 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Hugely entertaining while I watched it but I think it helps if you experienced the back-to-back streets and working men's clubs in the '70s, as I did when I was living in Leeds. I was however able to pick plenty of holes in it after the credits rolled. We weren't told what the abusive father and husband did for a living (perhaps they signed on at the job centre?), the larking about in the pub with her husband seemed a bit unlikely, her confessional sequences in the spotlight were a clumsy device, there was no follow-up to the old comic committing suicide in the toilets, we had to assume that she did so well in the clubs that she was able to buy a flashy car and a country house, the mother episodes were a bit superfluous and it did start to drag towards the end. But the performances were excellent: Maxine Peake deserves a BAFTA and the little girl who played her as a child was also terrific. Also every detail from hairstyles to dress to wallpaper was spot on. The talent show auditions were hilarious and worth the price of admission alone. Don't be too hard on it, it's a thoroughly British film with an Original Screenplay and I think it's an utter disgrace that only three cinemas in London are showing it.
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Thoughtful, emotionally engaging and genuinely amusing
hughrcarson12 September 2018
"It's always been too much for me... life... and not enough. All at the same time..."

Funny Cow is the tale of fictional female comic, Funny Cow (FC). It's a piece whose narrative is loosely anchored around occasional footage of FC delivering some sort of 'For TV' career retrospective monologue in which she reflects upon her life and times to date. Going by this particular TV performance's high production values, it would seem that this is at a point in her life when she's clearly 'made it'. Whatever that may really mean.

There's a pervading air of melancholy about it all, something that is very much prevalent in this Adrian Shergold film which traces FC's life from its poverty-stricken beginnings, through the frustrations of an abusive marriage, to her eventual breakthrough success (and beyond) as a female comedian.

The child of an alcoholic mother and abusive father, comedy had always been the perfect outlet for FC, but it's only ultimately through a combination of perseverance and a bitter-sweet twist of fate that she finally gets a chance to prove her worth.

Though the backstory of Shergold's film is to some extent one of developing the courage to shoot for the stars, Funny Cow is just as concerned with the concept of female empowerment, and examining life's myriad struggles and the ties that so often bind us, whether we would choose them to or not.

"Confucius say: He who drop watch down toilet have shitty time..."

The 1970's northern working class setting and brash sense of old fashioned humour lends Funny Cow something of a gritty backdrop, and whether it be racial stereotypes or 'in-bad-taste' one-liners, considering that we live today in such a timid and easily-offended nanny state, it's actually rather surprising - and refreshing - that so much of a nationally-released film's shall we say, 'questionable' language and terminology has not been airbrushed from history. Undoubtedly this lends the piece a real sense of authenticity which could so easily have been stripped away, much to the film's detriment.

That said, though the more controversial content is at most fleeting, truth be told, this is probably not one for the easily offended or keen advocates of a more modern Sofie Hagen-esque safe-space type of comedy. But that probably goes without saying.

Paddy Considine's awkwardly circumspect portrayal of Angus, the arts-loving, book shop owner and FC's woefully mismatched other half for a period of time, is reassuringly solid and understated. Lindsey Coulson's performance as FC's mother in later life, though not an extended role, is nonetheless arresting for its depth, range and conviction, whilst Alun Armstrong's turn as the tragic, long-in-the-tooth jobbing morose comic, Lenny, is a highly impressive if excruciatingly mournful performance.

And then of course there's Maxine Peake whose performance as FC wonderfully encapsulates the actions and emotions of a woman who is first to acknowledge that she has never really fitted in, and whose struggles and persistence - not to mention a thicker than average skin - have eventually paid off professionally-speaking.

Although there is evidently a part of her that remains unfulfilled and more than a little world-weary, the over-riding impression here is that FC is one life's great survivors, who, having been through so much in her life is consequently an emboldened woman, steadfastly refusing to ever even entertain the notion of being considered a victim.

Aided by Richard Hawley's sympathetic soundtrack, Adrian Shergold expertly straddles the line between good and bad taste, between tragedy and triumph, and between tears and substantial laughter, to produce not only a film that is genuinely funny, but one which is thoughtful and emotionally engaging too.

This and hundreds of other films are reviewed on my WaywardWolfBlog
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Dull and very clichéd
thekingsdom22 August 2018
I'm a southerner from London. Apparantly no one up "north" has ever been happy. Every one up "north" batters women and most northern women are raving alchoholics. I found this film so tick box clichéd. "Do you want some chips?. No. EAT SOME CHIPS..Thump" There was no character arcs. It was just badly written tick box characters. Agressive northern man tick, alcoholic mother, tick, grim up north, tick etc. Our lead character doesn't ever seem to write any jokes and most of her stand up isn't funny. Also, the timeline of the film constantly jumps all over the place which is very annoying. To sum up, I found the film badly written with stereotypical characters and badly written dialogue. Even the 'comedy' wasn't funny. Save your time would be my advice.
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Great performances but perhaps better Television.
tm-sheehan31 August 2018
Not too many laughs in Funny Cow- It's a pity someone of the caliber of Jimmy McGovern, who's Television acclaimed dramas such as The Street and Accused depicting bleak human tales of the grass roots British characters and their environments perfectly and with great empathy. I liked all the performances especially Maxine Peake playing the lead role so well and depicting the struggle to escape a violent alcoholic home . Funny Cow repeats her mother's mistakes in choosing violent men till she finds comedy as her escape but the flash backs and editing I found confusing and out of synch with the script. Perhaps this script would be better suited to television drama where there's more time to expand characters and reveal more background to the story and motives of the characters.. I just found this film very depressing , which is not a bad thing in itself but a film also needs to entertain and be interesting, which in my opinion it fails to do . Like so many movies I've seen recently the actors often are great but if the Production and Direction are average the whole movie suffers.
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Excellent depiction of a Sheffield legend
tonypeacock-122 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The rise of a female 'comic' in the male dominated Working Men's Club circuit of Northern England in the 1970s is explored by this film.

Maxine Peake plays the funny cow of the title although Paddy Considine has top billing with a smaller role as some arty book seller.

Is the film based on the real life of the late Sheffield comedian Marti Caine? It certainly appears so.

Writer and star is Tony Pitts who certainly throws in a few Sheffield references although disappointingly the film appears to have been shot elsewhere.

The film does include some pretty raw subject matter such as alcoholism, suicide of the Alun Armstrong character but this is more than counter balanced by the performance of Peake.

The film confusingly at first zips between timelines of the Funny Cow's life from post war childhood featuring terraced houses, outdoor baths and domestic violence to the 1970s discovery of the Funny Cow talent.

If one looks at the history of Caine she did win the then talent show New Faces beating the likes of Victoria Wood and Lenny Henry. She did have an alcoholic mother. Lindsay Coulson (Eastenders) plays that tragic role.

Pitts appears to have written and starred in an enjoyable and thought provoking film. It's just a shame the real Crookes club couldn't have been used instead of some stand in.

Other highlights included a decent soundtrack and cameo from Sheffield musician Richard Hawley.
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Brilliant Hidden Gem of a Film!
jblumetti-402-29765513 March 2019
Can't say enough good about this film... other than why have I not heard about it or seen it in theatres!? Maxine Peake is just beyond brilliant in this work. She forces you to fall in love with this beautifully damaged hot mess of a character. Peake layers every nuance and subtext possible around this tortured soul for you to see and excruciatingly feel. The directing by Adrian Shergold was exceptional and clever, the screenwriting by Tony Pitts superb. The supporting cast is fantastic, most especially Tony Pitts brutally intimidating in the role of Bob. While this genre and storyline with actors nearly unknown to me would not be something, I wouldn't typically watch. But I'm so very pleased I did. Funny Cow had me from start to finish. An outstanding piece of work tragically overlooked and underappreciated by the British critics and audiences and invisible to American audiences until now... thank you Amazon Prime!
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Not necessary
joey_d_4923 April 2018
How tired I am of seeing films showing how grim tis up North...

Funny Cow is a story about a woman who's had a troubled time with the men in her life, namely her Father and Partner. It's a set up that's been told a thousand times before, though the premise of this version is that it supposedly leads our protagonist to comedy. The main thing missing from this story however was just that..comedy. Funny Cow shows she can crack a cheap laugh at points in the film, mainly one liners, and doesn't actually pluck up the courage to take the stage until the end of the film. Needless to say, she goes onto perform as if she's had plenty of experience and has the whole place roaring with laughter... zzz.

The film was the most depressing film I've seen in a very long time. One dimensional characters, all with similar vices in alcoholism and addiction. Performances were stereotypical and obvious on the whole. The scenes of violence were tactless, we know it happens but do you have to be so blatant with it?! Not sure why Stephen Graham decided to sign on for this one. He's in two scenes as two characters, and the scene in which he is playing her Father is just ridiculous, seems to me a bad choice for an actor so often likable regardless of his morals. Paddy Considine also out of his range here, playing an upper class yuppy, very characiturish and unbelievable, a rare mistep for Considine.

Peake does an OK job, but again not particularly likeable, and sometimes her choices seemed over the top and obvious. There is a smugness to her which I find hard to overlook.

I really didn't find anything in the film worth taking home with me, in fact I felt angered when leaving because it truly felt like a story that doesn't need to be shown on film. If these are the sorts of films representing British Cinema, then no wonder people are staying home watching Netflix.

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Interesting and tough at times, definitely not a comedy.
lookattheowls7 March 2019
There must have been a misunderstanding; Funny Cow is by no means a comedy. The worthwhile part of this films is its honesty, but it also raises a red flag: why is a film like this necessary today? Watch and find out, is all I can say. Message and meaning apart, there isn't much to praise (unfortunately!). All the characters are at least flat, only the protagonist gets a decent bit of development. Also, I understand a film like this ought to feel bleak and hopeless, so please, please don't tag it as a comedy! People will watch and feel very confused at fist; disappointed about the middle, and disheartened by the end. Funny Cow does have something to say, but only to those who need to hear it. To those that don't, it's just another not-quite-there film. Decent effort put in there, but... meh.
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Absolute drivel
jamesnsuk12 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Starring Maxine Peake I expected good things. I didn't get them. This film severely lacks something - a story maybe? It was definitely lacking something and the collection of great names making cameos suggested it would be better than it was.

The old comic hung himself, but all we saw was the act and then no further ado were on to something else.

In the end did she go on to be a great comedy success? Who knows? What about her mum? Who knew the coast was such a good cure for being a hardcore alcoholic?!

Very cliched, very lacking something, very disappointing!
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Ghastly mess and seldom a "comedy"
szweda-1855510 February 2019
Warning: Spoilers
Watched this to its non-ending but neither understood the point of it all or why it was billed as a comedy. We only see grimness in this film and even when we finally see her on stage its humour is tarnished. No doubt some clever dick was making some social point or other by avoiding almost any sign of linear chronology. It is all over the place most of the time. And how come she delivered so well after earlier running away at the audition? An audition by the same bloke that hires her! I felt cheated out of another ninety minutes by yet another dodgy British attempt at moviemaking. Better it was properly scripted and edited for TV.
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