"Cold Comfort" Movie Review

Starring Maury Chaykin, Margaret Langrick, Paul Gross, and Jayne Eastwood

Have you heard the one about the travelling salesman and the tow truck driver's daughter? I didn't think so.

I was fully prepared for this movie to suck the big one, but that wasn't really why I rented it, you know? To my great surprised, it's actually a dark, cynical movie with a really sick sense of humor. I loved it!

"Cold Comfort" is at heart a variation on Stephen King's "Misery", although it looks like the source material was a popular play which was written before King's novel was released. Call it one of those weird coincidences, like "Antz" and "A Bug's Life" being released at the same time.

Surprisingly, the movie lends itself well to a thumbnail sketch: Paul Gross (there it is, now I've said it, can we get on with the review now?) is a travelling salesman who drives into a snowbank in the middle of Manitoba. A creepy tow truck driver picks him up, takes him home, and gives him to his daughter as a present for her 18th birthday.

What's been left out in that description is that it's freaking HILARIOUS! I know you've probably been burned before by movies based on plays... believe me, I feel your pain. But keep in mind that "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" was also based on a play. If you haven't seen "Rosencrantz" yet, turn off your computer and go rent it RIGHT NOW.

Where was I... oh yeah: Apparently the movie got a pretty bad reception with the (American) press; the reviews I managed to find absolutely BLASTED it with accusations of high tediousness. To those reviewers, I say UP YOURS!

If you thought "Fargo" was funny, you'll LOVE this movie. If you laughed so hard you peed your pants while watching the last Adam Sandler movie... well, it's obviously too late for ECT. Just throw yourself in front of a train; trust me, it'll be best for both of us.

ANYWAY... the dark humor alone wouldn't keep this movie afloat. Fortunately, it also boasts some really kick-ass acting. Gross is great, of course, but (and you know it kills me to say this) the real star is Maury Chaykin, who plays the nutty tow truck driver in question. He seriously scared me!

Chaykin's character has this quirky little habit of screaming murderous accusations out of nowhere, pausing a second, then basically saying "just messin' with ya!" You can see EXACTLY how Jack Nicholson would have played this role; it would have been painfully obvious to the audience that he meant exactly what he was saying, which would make Gross look like a moron for not getting the hell out of there PRONTO. But somehow Chaykin has managed to wring SUBTLETY and NUANCE out of his role as the crazy tow truck driver. Which, if you ask me, is a MUCH bigger accomplishment than, say, a good performance as Hamlet. 15 points for Maury Chaykin!

Gross is really hilarious in his role as, well, as the wuss. Call me sick (you're sick) but it was just WAY too funny when he got caught in that bear trap. Then they drag him back inside, and he pitches a total hissy fit while wobbling unsteadily in the middle of the floor.

He also has this really awesome speech late in the movie, which involves much vitriolic swearing and threatening and violent arm-waving on his part. Why is it funny? Because he's shackled to the wall at the time, while Chaykin stands calmly just outside Paul's reach. Then Chaykin steps in and beats the holy hell out of him.

Like I said, it's pretty dark humor.

5 points for the conclusion of Gross' speech: "I'll make SOUP out of you, you motherfucker!"

Since the dialogue was pretty much the best part, I'm awarding the balance of the points to my favorite lines:

1. Delores (the daughter, examining the unconscious Gross after her father brings him home): "He doesn't look so good, Daddy. His tongue's sticking out now."

Chaykin (the father): I know he looks kind of goofy now, but that's just 'cause he's cold."

2. Gross (peddling his wares at a desolate Manitoba truck stop): "This is the very latest in ersatz Italian leather!"

3. Delores (whining) "What if he doesn't like me?"

Chaykin (giving her a reassuring pat on the shoulder): "Aw, we'll feed him to the dogs, honey."

Final score: 96 points

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