Sweet Revenge (1998 film)
|Directed by||Malcolm Mowbray|
|Produced by||Simon Bosanquet|
|Written by||Malcolm Mowbray|
Helena Bonham Carter
Kristin Scott Thomas
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Barrie Vince|
The film had a brief and modestly successful theatrical run in Italy under the title Amori e vendette (Loves and Vendettas) but failed to find a distributor elsewhere. It eventually was telecast in the UK by BBC Two on 30 December, 1999, under the title The Revengers' Comedies. It was released on videotape in the United States and France and on DVD in the US.
The plot, reminiscent of the Alfred Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train, focuses on two disparate characters. Conservative Henry Bell has been eased out of his job by condescending Bruce Tick, while wealthy and wildly eccentric Karen Knightly has been abandoned by her lover Anthony Staxton-Billing, who opted to return to his wife Imogen. Both are intent on committing suicide by leaping from the Tower Bridge in London. When neither succeeds, they strike a bargain whereby each agrees to exact revenge on behalf of the other, although Henry is less enthusiastic about the plan.
Karen, disguised as a frumpy office temp, finds employment as an assistant to Tick and quickly derails his marriage by leading his wife Hilary to believe he's involved in an extramarital affair. Henry, meanwhile, is finding it difficult to keep his end of the bargain, since he has fallen in love with Imogen, the object of Karen's revenge. Instead of planning her demise, he begins an affair with the beguiling woman. Henry learns that Anthony left Karen not for Imogen, but for beautician Daphne Teal, and he begins to suspect Karen is more of a villain than a victim. The woman proves to be a formidable foe when she realizes Henry may renege on their deal.
Adding to the humorous complications are Karen's oddball brother Oliver, who delights in racing through the interior of their rural mansion on his motor scooter; elderly and slightly befuddled housekeeper Winnie; and Daphne's very inept daughter Norma, who's being groomed to take over the household chores so Winnie finally can retire.
- Sam Neill as Henry Bell
- Helena Bonham Carter as Karen Knightly
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Imogen Staxton-Billing
- Rupert Graves as Oliver Knightly
- Martin Clunes as Anthony Staxton-Billing
- Steve Coogan as Bruce Tick
- Liz Smith as Winnie
- Charlotte Coleman as Norma
- Anita Dobson as Daphne Teal
- John Wood as Col. Marcus
David Rooney of Variety called the film a "mix of dry British wit, sophisticated farce and arch eccentricity," "the kind of material that can sparkle onstage but often sits uneasily onscreen, and tends to have limited pull with today's audiences." He added, "Aside from its humor, Ayckbourn's work is notable for its brisk pacing, multilateral action and the ingenuity of its complex structuring, all qualities that lose something in the screen transfer...Mowbray's script opens out the action physically but is unable to shake off the stagy feel. To his credit, he never shies away from the savagery that flavors the best black comedies, but the verve needed to make this one a complete success is nonetheless missing."