While Clue begins by trying to maintain a mysterious, Agatha Christie-esque sense of mystery and deduction, it quickly devolves into an outright farce – where it holds its obvious greatest strength and source of delight. Similarly, the divine Eileen Brennan’s Mrs. Peacock starts out stately and charming, true to her background of political schmoozing and hobnobbing, and abruptly becomes the shrillest and most heightened character among this sly ensemble. She’s the most outraged, the most undone, quite simply: just the MOST.
But though she takes her forceful senator’s wife to barking heights, she earns the absurd laughs my aiming with a perfect pitch of delicious comic insight.
I’d safely say Brennan is gifted with the least amount of actual punchlines from a script brimming in witticisms ranging from the dry to the crass. With the least to work with on the page, she’s given more room to just let loose to her own smart comic gifts as an actress. Brennan earns every laugh she gets from her broad, but idiosyncratically detailed approach to a character who’s primary responses are denial and outrage. Note how she plays being paired with the sexually lecherous Professor Plum: she gets laughs from being quietly exasperated and from wailing like a banshee.
Her attention to minor character detail is essential to stay afloat with an ensemble as on-fire as this one. Her introductory dinner speech alone is punctuated with enough forced charm, snooty elitism, and fresh discoveries in what could have been a forgettable moment, but instead becomes my favorite quotable from the film (well… outside of the obvious). Brennan’s soup’s delicious, isn’t it?
The full range of her characterization keeps her work delightfully unexpected on every repeat viewing. From her fabulously stupid fascinator that grows increasingly useless and mussed, to the fed-up histrionics when trying to corral this group of dopes, she’s the modulator in the ensemble that keeps the film steady on its highwire of bold humor.
It makes complete sense that she gets her own of the film’s three endings considering the amount of attention and delight she draws. Her Mrs. Peacock isn’t just a banshee wailing about the two dead bodies in the study, but someone you could actually picture murdering a house full of random strangers.
She’s not so much the film’s secret weapon as she is its WMD.
More About Chris Feil:
- Favorite Movie – Wall-E
- First Clue Experience – Thank you, mid-90s Comedy Central!
- Where and With What Would You Kill Mr. Body? – In the Library (because reading is WHAT?) with kindness
- Most-Anticipated Movie? – The Witch and Carol
- Give an Oscar to a Nominated Performance That Didn’t Win – Bill Murray for Lost in Translation