This one went down like a dirty shower, one that renders both clarity and muck strangely equal, suspended in unison, seemingly unwashable. It reminded me of the way our past sticks to us, the sins of the fathers (and mothers), how we can never really clear up the mess of others, and how we tragically try.
‘Monkey see, monkey do’ claims our protagonist, and the place is working man’s Yorkshire, the time is the comedy circuit of the 1970s, with a rabid bite of the 1980s transplanted in, and Maxine Peake is the eponymous funny cow, a woman with no name, no future, no escape other than in endless repetition of family history, class mentality, gender predicament, abuse and alcoholism as norms rather than exceptions. Her black sheep status is rightly earned by a caustic bite, an unrelenting refusal to accept any of it, yet being dumped with ownership of all of it, fighting and failing to fully imagine anything truly different.
It’s an imperfect disjointed narrative fuck you of a film, elliptical and fragmented, a celluloid scrap-book of insults, injury, isolation, with a few unguarded moments in between – microscopic dents in that hard-earned stone cold shell, treated by all as a passing infection of goodness, and promptly cured with a quick shot of sarcasm. It’s softness and genuine emotion that makes one weak in this world, and therefore certain prey to all the predators, ones from above, ones from below, and all the class tiers in between. Or at least that’s what has been passed on as the ultimate truth in this universe of solidified illusion.
Being an outsider to the British class system, but having an inside view of how it works, the tragedy of funny cow seems to be one of cosmic proportions, as the individual not only fights the system without, but the system within. And that is where she breaks.
This is no comedy – not that it isn’t darkly funny, in a Bretonian ‘gallows with lighting rod’ kind of way, depicting humour not as a relief, but at the centre of the disease, a punctured ulcer reeking of that which it could not any longer contain.