‘Relative Values’ is based on a play of the same name by Noel Coward, but we didn’t realise that until after we’d watched it. It was made in 2000 though set in the 1950s, based in the stately home of the Marshwood family. The young Earl, Nigel (Edward Atterson), has announced his engagement to an American actress called Miranda (Jeanne Triplehorn) who, until recently, was in a relationship with another movie star (William Baldwin).
His mother (Julie Andrews) is determined to be egalitarian and to accept a commoner, so long as she’s truly in love with Nigel. However she’s worn down by snide comments from friends, and is also disturbed by the increasing anxiety of her personal maid Moxie (Sophie Thompson)....
It’s rather an all-star cast; Stephen Fry is typecast as the butler Crestwell who has to hold together a fluttery star-struck set of housemaids, while attempting to calm down Moxie who feels that she has no choice but to leave. Colin Firth is brilliant, too, as Nigel’s cousin Peter, who keeps his aunt company and provides some wonderfully satirical asides. I was perhaps a little disappointed in Julie Andrews, whose character seemed to be almost identical to the Queen of Genovia in ‘The Princess Diaries’, but she played it admirably.
However, we thought that the most amusing and versatile character was Moxie, who has an unexpected secret, and is then expected to act a part for which she is totally unsuited. I didn’t realise that Emma Thompson had a sister who was also an actress; I shall look out for more with Sophie Thompson in future, as she was excellent in this role. She was transformed into an extremely dowdy maid for most of the film, but also manages to appear as a twittery and very nervous family friend, putting on an upper-class accent and wearing unaccustomed finery.
While we didn’t find it ‘outstandingly funny’, as the front of the DVD describes this, there are some amusing moments, and one brief scene - an American/British language difference, where Colin Firth puts Julie Andrews right - which was delivered with such perfect timing that we laughed out loud and kept chuckling for a while afterwards.
The whole thing is caricatured, of course, as is typical for plays of this era, with a deeper theme exploring the prejudices that were - and maybe still are - held against foreigners and commoners, by even the most enlightened of the upper classes.
Rated PG, it’s free of bad language and anything ‘adult’, although - for those who are concerned about such things - there are plenty of scenes of drinking, including some rather tipsy behaviour, and some cigarettes. However, I don't think it's the kind of film that is likely to appeal to anyone under the age of about 14 or 15 in any case.
Definitely recommended as a light-hearted and amusing satirical film.
Review by Sue F copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews