The Ruling Class

imageAlong with several staff members at my theater, we have recently decided that we are going to write up a variation of the “Laminate list”. The Laminate List goes by all sorts of different names, but is generally known as the list of 5 celebrities that one is allowed to sleep with. But rather then this be a list about sleeping with people, we decided that we wanted to make it more of a fan list styled phone tree. So that if one of your Top 5 celebrities happens to come into the theater and you are not working, you would get a phone call and be provided the opportunity to stop in to the theater and possibly actually get to meet them.

Now at most places of business this would be a completely frivolous list. More of a way to pass the time and ignore whatever it is you are supposed to be doing. But I work at a movie theater in a relatively major metropolitan city. Celebrities are actually a fairly regular occurrence here in Minneapolis. A handful call the area home, and countless others swing on buy during their various tours, press meetings, or even being paid to party at our nightclubs.

Unfortunately, of the three Landmark Theaters in town mine is by far the least hip and the furthest away from the cultural epicenter that is Uptown. Because of this our level of celebrities tends to be rather low. Sure we got Bai Ling that one time, but who hasn’t had her? Or then there was the time Ned Beatty hung out for an afternoon, which was cool, but he also did it in part because he was trying to get us to sell his new CD. Which, by the way, was entirely devoted to him singing Gospel songs. I’m pretty sure we still have a case of them lying around somewhere. But outside of that we haven’t garnered much higher then the Minneapolis Mayor or local Sportscaster Mark Rosen.

This is unlike our companion theaters The Uptown and The Lagoon, who’s regulars include the members of AtmosphereBrother Ali and occasionally Josh Hartnett dressed in disguise. Or then there was the week that the Royal Shakespeare Company performed King Lear at The Guthrie. And who just happened to be a fan of going to the movies every day while the production was in town? Why none other then Sir Ian McKellen.

So who is on my list? Well it certainly isn’t finalized yet but David CrossEddie Izzard and Simon Pegg would certainly make the final cut. Which is interesting because this past Sunday, who came to our theater to watch OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies but none other then Eddie Izzard himself. In town for the next few days as he plays his sold out show at The State Theater I guess he just felt like catching up on a film to kill time on the night before he performed. I wouldn’t know though, because I was at home watching The Ruling Class.

Opening with an apparently mind numbingly dull opening scene about the “rigorous” daily routines that British aristocrats must go through only to end with the 13th Earl of Gurney (Harry Andrews) dressing up in a ballet tutu to engage in some odd sexual fetish, only to end up accidentally strangling himself to death. To top it off, his family discovers that the 13th Earl has left his estate to his only heir, Jack the 14th Earl of Gurney (Peter O’Toole), who just so happens to be a paranoid schizophrenic who is convinced that he is Jesus Christ.

Boffo hilarity ensues when the family privately schemes to have Jack committed, only after he conceives an heir with his new wife Grace (Carolyn Seymour), who also happens to be his Uncle Charles’ (William Mervyn) mistress. Only Grace falls in love with Jack, Sir Charles’ wife Lady Claire (Coral Browne) is sleeping with Jack’s psychiatrist in the hopes he can cure Jack, and it just so happens that Tucker the butler (Arthur Lowe) is a communist. Got it? No? Well too bad, cause we’re off!

The Ruling Class displays a knack for clubbing one over the head with with its direct takes on British society and it refuses to ease up on the throttle throughout the remainder of the film. It is a film that seems quite unable to use, or possibly understand, the concept of subtlety. But this is both to the detriment and success of the film. While the film is incredibly caustic, and at times painfully obvious with its take on the British upper class, it still manages to be incredibly funny, and unlike most modern day comedies, The Ruling Class manages to successfully maintain the humor throughout the film, even when it takes a dark and sinister turn.

But while its go for broke style is bound to annoy or infuriate more then a few viewers, it is hard not to respect a film that so clearly sticks to its stylistic vision even when it will be rather difficult for most people to comprehend it in its entirety with a single viewing. The film rather ingeniously shifts its manner of its message between straight satire to below the belt sight gags and puns with incredible ease and effectiveness. And in a rather impressive head scratching twist, the film even manages to work in more then a few musical numbers that operate simultaneously as metaphorical references, humorous interludes, and give keen insight into Jack’s precipitous grasp on reality.

But while The Ruling Class is a film so chock full of ideas that it will be difficult to analyze and absorb them in a single hearty sitting it shouldn’t dissuade someone from watching it. Yes it is overlong, and yes it is tedious and obvious. It might even be a touch trivial at times. But it is also risky as it continues to aim for something far grander then a mere comedy is ever supposed too. And thanks to superb acting and a stunning sharp script, The Ruling Class manages to hit its mark again and again. Though I still would have rather met Eddie Izzard.