8 January 2007 | bob the moo
Interesting and entertaining potted history of Craddock's public life but lacks insight into much beyond this
As the top TV chef on the BBC, Fanny Craddock showing the masses how to produce elaborate dishes on a tight budget. Working with her long suffering husband Johnnie, Fanny is a domineering character who likes things just the way she likes them an attitude that comes across on the screen no matter how she holds it in. Her children are remote and those that work with her generally do so in fear of their next mistake. At the height of her fame though, this aspect of her character starts to eat back on her life.
I'm getting older but I'm not old enough to remember when Fanny Craddock was a major influence in the world of TV chefs and generally I ignore their programmes anyway. However I was slightly aware of Craddock just because of the domineering and the way she used to talk down to her audience as if they were all a bit below her. This film focuses on the years when she was established and then moves through as her style quickly gets dated and her career comes to an end. In doing this the film never gets that deep into the character but yet does enough to show what a tragic figure she becomes as a result of her own actions. In this regard it is simplistic but interesting enough to work for what it is. Despite the terribly comedy title, the film is not that funny aside from the figure of fun that Craddock herself was. It is sad to watch her break and, although some actual depth and insight would have been nice, the events themselves are enough to carry the film. I did think at the end though that, apart from her recipes being stuck several decades back, Craddock would be in her element now as television has become cruel and full of matriarchal types (think Weakest Link, How Clean is Your House, You Are What You Eat etc etc); how ironic that barely a generation ago the thing that essentially ended her career would now have producers clambering to sign her up for a game show of some sort.
As Craddock, Davis does a very good job on the surface and is convincing throughout as this battleaxe of a woman. She struggles to find a person within the character but this is the material's problem as much as it is hers. Gatiss is a little bit better but again he doesn't have much in the way of character to work with he has been told "you are long suffering" and left to get on with it. The rest of the cast fill in around the edges nicely enough but at the end the film doesn't even belong to Davis, it belongs to the caricature that was Fanny Craddock as this is what looms large over every scene.
Worth a look then for a potty history of who this famous TV chef was in terms of her public life and as such it is entertaining and quite interesting. However those looking for understanding and/or insight into why she was and who she really was when she was stripped bare in the quiet moments will not find anything that clever here.