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Just Buried: A Comedy Of [Homicidal] Errors
Just Buried is another pot of comedic gold at the end of the Canadian rainbow, starring our favorite go-to woobie Jay Baruchel and the prolific Rose Byrne of Bridesmaids fame. The long and short of it? Watch it.
Just Buried was released in 2007, so I'm nearly a decade late to the party on this one, but I had high hopes for this pairing, having seen both actors progress in their more recent careers. Baruchel's most known for his collaborations with fellow incognito-Canadian Seth Rogen in films like Knocked Up and This Is The End, where he plays a loveable guy who gets kicked around by fate (and Just Buried is no departure). Byrne's a little harder to pin down - she'd played in everything from super-hero flicks to horrors like Insidious, with a smattering of indie thrown in for good measure - so I was delighted to discover a new facet of her skill-set in Just Buried, where she plays an obsessive mortician with a ludicrous but lovable knack for accidental crime.
At its heart Just Buried could be compared to a number of other David-Goliath underdog comedies like Dodgeball or The Longest Yard, but it goes further than that. It's a buddy-tale between protagonist Oliver (Baruchel) and Roberta (Byrne) in the same vein as I Love You Man, featuring two very different but surprisingly compatible strangers who form a fast friendship (plus, later on, the inevitable wish-fulfillment fantasy typical of these sorts of films, where the nerdy nervous hero takes a corner in life and finds himself at the absurd center of a number of women and their rapidly escalating sexual advances).
But first and foremost, it's a comedy of errors.
Oliver, in town for his estranged father's funeral, expected a quick in-and-out visit; that is, until the will is executed, and Oliver inherits his father's funeral home. It's only later that he's informed his own father is the home's first 'customer' in a year. The business has been ailing ever since sleaze-ball Wayne Snarr (Christopher Shore) opened a rival funeral home, interdicting which his greasy marketing all the 'clients' from the retirement home which had been a goldmine for Oliver's father. The setup for the underdog comedy is obvious, but it's a trope viewers seemingly never tire of, and I daresay a funeral-home is a fresher take on the genre than a dodgeball team (or any sporting team, for that matter).
While command of the funeral home, Oliver meets Roberta, the young, somewhat creepy mortician as well as the local coroner. Nervous Oliver (who suffers a nosebleed every time he gets nervous, often to hilarious effect) bumbles through their encounters until Roberta takes pity on him and takes him out for drinks.
It's here the film takes a turn into the absurd, which predictably is when the comedy kicks in.
After their cocktails and beers Oliver insists he probably shouldn't be driving. Eternally upbeat Roberta insists "everyone around here does it", and they hop in the truck and take backroads. Everything's going fine, and we're starting so suspect some unlikely romantic undertones, until Oliver looks away from the road for a moment...
... And just like that, the funeral home's got another customer.
For once, things seem to go right for Oliver. His first official funeral as director is a smashing success, and the dearly-deceased had the decency to be relatively loaded. But naturally, we can assume all is not well. And as the pair go to greater and more absurd lengths to keep the truth hidden, the bodies start to pile up. The repo-men are at the funeral home for the furniture, rival Snarr is offering low-ball buyout deals, and - short of engineering more 'accidental' deaths - the pair struggles to keep the business afloat, hide their crimes, and keep their heads above water as various townsfolk grow suspicious (including Roberta's own father who, in small-town tradition, just so happens to be the sheriff).
Just Buried revolves around a funeral home, and as you'd expect, death is a central theme. It speaks to director-writer Chaz Thorn's skill that he's able to wring maximum laughs out of a dark theme, but I wouldn't even go so far as to call this one a 'black comedy' (or a dark comedy, since I'm not sure what the official PC-stance on 'black comedy' is). Just Buried is ultimately light-hearted in tone, and with the number of accidental deaths and their varying degree of unlikelihood, it's clear that the movie doesn't take itself too seriously. If we're going to call films like The Lobster a black comedy, then Just Buried is a romp, a lark. The stakes are high, but that's only a plot device to give skeleton to the film's muscle and fat: the laughs and character dynamics.
Baruchel, naturally, kills it. I don't think I've ever seen a movie of his I didn't like, so maybe I'm biased. But the true credit goes to Byrne; 'whacky' female characters, no matter how well written, can tend to skew towards Manic Pixie Dreamgirl in the bad cases, to annoying, to downright unbelievable in the worst instances. It's not an easy role by any means, but Byrne riffs off the theme perfectly, balancing just the right amount of ridiculous and relatable, snark and serious. Roberta provides Oliver a perfect foil while maintaining her own depth: she has her own stakes and motivations critical to the plot.
I wouldn't say Just Buried is my favorite from either actor. Baruchel's best role remains himself in This Is The End, and I like Byrne's dramatics better in films like The Place Beyond The Pines. It's not even in the running for best recent Canadian comedy (of which there are too many to compare).
But for a film about a funeral home, it's far more hilarious than I'd have thought possible.
Eh, don't know why, but this movie didn't click for me. It tries to be a dark comedy, but it doesn't really have the comedic edge to really be the jet black comedy that it wants to be. And I also can't shake the feeling of deja vu, like somehow I've seen this movie before. I know I haven't seen it before, I know I would've remembered parts of it if I had seen it. But what I mean by that is that this seems to be an amalgamation of different films that I've seen. There's some Burke and Hare here, for sure. I remember seeing a movie called I Sell the Dead, that I quite enjoyed, I was also reminded of that. The funeral home setting isn't entirely unique, of course, but it also reminded me of a mediocre British comedy called Undertaking Betty. There's even some Sweeney Todd here, what with causing deaths in order to keep their business afloat. So, from what I have seen of course, it's a mixture of all of those things, though I'm sure there's more films out there that I haven't seen that bares a resemblance to this. The point of this is the fact that there's nothing about this movie that's unique. And, again, that's not so much of a problem if, as I mentioned in my previous review, you have a strong script or, at the very least, strong dialogue. If you have that and a good cast then, to me, the rest will take care of itself. Unfortunately for this film, however, it only had one of those things and that is a solid cast. Jay Baruchel and Rose Byrne are always good, so there's no worries about their performances at all. The problems come with the script which, to me, for a comedy, just isn't really that funny. There's a couple of chuckles and one particularly nasty death in the film, but this just lacks a consistently entertaining tone. The narrative goes exactly the way you'd expect. The more Oliver causes deaths to keep his business afloat, the more he gets used to it and the more cocky and overconfident he gets, getting rid of people closest to Roberta. Of course, however, it comes out at the end that Oliver was just being used as a patsy by Roberta to get rid of those in her way from taking over the business that was meant to be hers. Her father forced her mother to sell the funeral home and she's been resentful of him ever since. If you've seen more than five films, then you'll probably figure out Roberta's game once she says that she was meant to inherit the funeral home. The film, technically speaking, isn't great, but that doesn't bother me nearly as much as the fact that the script just isn't that strong to begin with. I'm not suggest thing the film is bad or anything, because I don't think it is, it's just a movie that's more content on being a pedestrian black comedy. Though, to be fair, that's just my perception of it. I'm sure plenty of people worked hard to make this movie the best it could be. The problem with that is the fact that this movie's best is just not good enough. This is what I would call average, at best. It's predictable, derivative and not consistently funny. A good cast doesn't simply doesn't do enough to elevate this past just being average. I wouldn't recommend it, but you can do considerably worse and it's on Amazon Prime, so you don't lose much if you do decide to watch it.
i liked the idea of it a lot..but the movie felt rushed and lifeless at times...I guess i just thought it would be better...but on the up side it was entertaining and funny...glad i checked it out.
a black comedy that's black but not funny
This funeral home based dark comedy is somewhat of a rarity. It does not pull any punches, at times is gritty, and resolves itself with quite a satisfying ending. The fact that other than Graham Greene's character, no one will elicit any sympathy just adds to the fun. If you like death as a motivation for personal gain, then "Just Buried" is a must see. The acting and character development is quite good for this limited budget endeavor. It is funny, never boring, and at times unpredictable. The conclusion especially is surprisingly original. I recommend this black comedy for both it's creativity and entertainment value. 4 stars 8-19-13
It was quirky and fun to watch.
strange and kinda slinky movie
There was a gem of an idea here but it was poorly executed and thought through.
Byrne plays against type and Barachel plays his usual type of character.
strange gruesome yet lil dark comedy cdn film.
The problem with business is that you have to rely on other people. If nobody wants to buy your stock, you don't make any money. The problem with running a funeral home is that your business revolves around people dying. In a small town where everyone knows one another and there are no elderly people thanks to the elderly home being moved closer to the competition's funeral home, you're going to be in trouble.
That's the problem that faces Oliver (Jay Baruchel). After his father dies and leaves him the failing business, it's up to the nerdy son to try to get it back together. There are only two other employees working here: A coroner named Roberta (Rose Byrne), and an everyman named Henry (Graham Greene). Apart from the father's funeral, there hasn't been a service in almost a year. In a month's time, there's a good chance the home will be closed for business.
All seems bad for the gang. Oliver's thinking of selling the home to his competitor so as to scrape a bit of money from it. After having lunch and dinner with Roberta, he decides to drive home a bit drunk, eventually hitting a man who just happened to be crossing the road in front of the vehicle. An idea hits the duo: Let's snap his neck, make it look like he tripped while walking, and then we'll have the funeral for him. Their plan works, and they make a bit of money. But another character begins to suspect that the death wasn't just a simple trip, so they kill him. Accidentally, of course; these people aren't murderers.
We continue this way for most of the time that <i>Just Buried</i> runs. It does get tiresome, although watching the elaborate web of lies and cover-up unfold is quite intriguing. You can feel the tension building. Just when you think the characters have gotten away with it, they'll realize they left another piece of evidence behind, and another person on their trail. But, hey, they finally have some clientele! Maybe the funeral home won't have to be sold!
Or maybe they'll go to jail because they'll get caught. I won't spoil how the film ends, but with two cops so close to Roberta's life (her "boyfriend" is the constable to her father's police chief), you know they're going to get involved at some point. This is a film that's going to involve all of its named characters because (1) that's what good films do and (2) if you're a Canadian indie filmmaker and you're paying someone to have a major role, they're going to be important.
I hope I haven't made <i>Just Buried</i> sound like a grim film, because it's the opposite. Sure, it has death, corpses, and even an explosion, but the tone of the film is very whimsical. Even in some of the more thrilling scenes, there is a lot of dark comedy mixed in to keep the mood light. I mean, just look at the title: "Just Buried" seems to me to be a play on the term "Just Married." Can you not get that it's a comedy from that? Maybe not. Regardless, within the first five minutes that you begin watching this film, you'll realize it's not taking itself incredibly seriously.
So, yes, this is your quirky indie comedy that just so happens to be about murdering people. It's fun, even if it's not terribly unique or surprising (although one twist later on will probably surprise), and it's filled with enough humor to make it worth watching. I liked its sense of humor, I enjoyed the characters, and I had fun even if I can see how some would find it disturbing or depraved. They are killing people just to keep a business going.
You know, when you put it that way, it dons on me that <i>Just Buried</i> could be trying to take a shot at corporate business. How they put profit before everything else? How the net gain is more important than worker morale or customer satisfaction? Could it be that <i>Just Buried</i> is actually a much smarter film than it rightly should be? Well, maybe, but it doesn't come across as preachy. Read that much into it if you want to, but it's certainly not going to pound that message into your head. That's nice, as these things can sometimes be annoying, but if that depth is really there (and I'm not certain it is), it means that there's more to absorb not only on the first viewing, but on subsequent ones.
A film like this needs two things: A good cast and a solid script. The first is taken care of with Jay Baruchel and Rose Byrne. The former plays another nerdy, socially awkward role, while the latter is sweet, mysterious ... and also possibly insane. Both are endearing for most of their time on-screen. But the script is all over the place. Often funny, but sometimes it isn't at all. It also repeats itself one too many times, and doesn't really expand upon what is quite the final twist.
Still, for most of the time it was playing, I either had a smile on my face or I was laughing. I was rarely bored because I liked these characters, and the film is funny enough to keep you laughing -- just as long as your sense of humor is somewhat depraved. It also possibly contains more to think about than you would initially think, making rewatches more enjoyable. I had a good time with <i>Just Buried</i>, and if you like quirky indie comedies, you'll probably enjoy it as well.