Review by Chris Olson
The Last Sparks of Sundown
Written & Directed by James Kibbey
Starring Shenoah Allen, Mark Chavez, Emily Bevan, & Miles Jupp
“Crisps, that what they call them over here, crisps. I love that, it’s like saying “Hey come here” discreetly, to a guy named Chris.”
Just one example of the enormously pleasurable lines for James Kibbey’s outrageously funny film, The Last Sparks of Sundown, starring Shenoah Allen and Mark Chavez as two American actors, looking to turn the tide on their terrible lives, by cashing in on their dead Grandfather’s English home-cum-manor house. Travelling across the pond, Matt (Chavez) and Harvey (Allen), arrive in England hoping to shed their troubles, only to pick up their very own British tribulations…
After a zany meet and greet with their ludicrously posh acting agent, Geoffrey Chicken (Miles Jupp), the Sparks brothers traverse the windy roads of picturesque countryside, commenting “There’s so many Shires, is this a map of the entire world?” They arrive at their late Grandfather’s country home, to discover an unusual pair of squatters (Emily Bevan and Sara Kestelman). The house becomes a centre point for drama, intrigue and awful attempts to sell the house to perspective buyers in which the brothers riotously embarrass themselves.
This American-English comedy is rarer than a Beefeater riding a unicorn, and twice as funny! You would have to go to some lengths to find an independent comedy more hilarious than this in the last 20 years, and you could still come up short. The fact that this movie does not have a mega-budget or Seth Rogen style stoner jokes not only doesn’t hurt the film, it makes it stupendously more enjoyable. This is a refreshing glass of cold beer after years of drinking our own comedy urine (I am not sure where that analogy came from).
Fundamentally, the script is simply sublime. The jokes are witty, banterful, and come at the viewer with a speed not seen since the likes of Airplane! (1980) or some of Mel Brooks’ classic comedies.
The performances range from very good to fucking awesome! Jupp, Bevan and Christian McKay as a suspicious-looking buyer, deliver worthy comedy performances, adding tasty side dishes to the main course: Allen served in Chavez (that sounds wrong). The two leads deliver such gold in their performances, audiences will have to shield their eyes, whilst protecting their ribs from all the tickling.
One of the many brilliant scenes in the movie sees Harvey and Matt conduct a conversation deep underwater in their newly acquired swimming pool, where moments ago Harvey was meditating. As the two carry out a conversation through subtitles, it took this viewer several moments before he realised there could be no way they would understand each other!
Pacing is one of the only issues, with a romantic subplot taking a little too much time without much to show for it, but this is the only thorn in what is otherwise a delightful flower.
Kibbey’s film manages to walk that tightest of tightropes which lays between story and farce. The slapstick element to the jokes and the moments of pathos, are given with such a delicate touch that at no point is the momentum, and the audience, lost. It has the ACTUALY ability to make one laugh out loud - a true talent.
Blends of American comedy with English sensibilities are rare, Hot Fuzz (2007) being one of the only successful films that comes to mind, and this is because comedy is a very difficult thing to export. Cultural commentary, whilst well-received introspectively, does not tend to be something viewers are open to across long distances. Indeed, the jokes get lost in translation. However, with The Last Sparks of Sundown, the clash of cultures going on only heightens the laughs, offering a beautifully bold brashness to the American standpoint on British heritage, whilst poking fun at its own social ineptitude. With two phenomenal central performances and a superb supporting cast, a script which could make the Queen chuckle, and a splendid folky score, Kibbey’s film is up their in the big leagues of comedy and one of the most enjoyable films of the year.