VHS Vednesday: The Odd Job
THE ODD JOB (1978). Directed by Peter Medak. Starring Graham Chapman, David Jason, and Diana Quick.
In his first leading role outside of Monty Python, Graham Chapman stars as Arthur Harris, a middle-aged businessman who learns on his anniversary that his wife (Diana Quick) is leaving him. After his initial fury is replaced by profound depression, he plans to commit suicide but is unable to carry it out. Just as he's about to make another (ridiculously impractical) attempt, he's interrupted by a knock on the door from an odd-job man (David Jason) looking for work. Seeing the perfect opportunity, Harris employs the visitor as a hitman. However, as Harris doesn't want to see his death coming, he instructs the amateur assassin to do the job some other time, just as long as it's sudden and unexpected.
Content with the knowledge that his misery will soon be at an end, Harris is taken by surprise when his wife returns to him. His will to live restored, he now must find some way of cancelling the contract while avoiding the odd-job man's efforts to carry out the assignment.
Don't expect Python-style wackiness here; Chapman's screenplay (co-written with Bernard McKenna), while suitably silly, is more grounded than Python's flights of absurdity...it's exaggerated reality, rather than surrealism. That said, several moments are reminiscent of some classic Python bits (particularly an early scene in which Arthur furiously attempts to convince Fiona that he's not arguing with her).
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Occasionally, I regret choosing that little blurb: While it applies to most of the movies I review, every once in a while I pick up something that doesn't give any of the performers reason to be ashamed. Graham Chapman provides his trademark characterization of a respectable man alternating between barely-controlled calm and manic tirades. David Jason (A Touch of Frost) provides a memorable comedic presence as the bumbling but relentless killer (a part originally intended for Keith Moon). Diana Quick makes an appealing "straight-woman" foil for Chapman's lunacy, and Edward Hardwicke and Bill Paterson's cynical cops are amusingly wry. All in all, The Odd Job is a treat for fans of British comedy, just as long as you don't go in thinking of it as a Monty Python project.
Labels: vhs vednesday