With relatives gathering soon for the holidays, this is an opportune time to start face-to-face conversations about each person’s ideal send-off. But it can be so awkward to start a funeral planning conversation without some kind of warm-up. Hollywood to the rescue!
It’s easy to watch a funny film and start a serious conversation based on what you see in the movie. Here is a list of funny, family-friendly films that bring a light touch to a dark subject and can help get the conversation started. Click on the title to learn more about each!
Undertaking Betty (2002 – PG-13) starring Brenda Blethyn, Alfred Molina and Christopher Walken. Stuck in a marriage that’s killing her, Betty thinks the only way to break from her two-timing scoundrel of a husband is to fake her own death. With the help of her rekindled old flame, the local undertaker, she finds a new life after a comedic funeral journey. The flamboyant competing funeral director in town creates the ultimate Star Trek funeral.
The Six Wives of Henry Lefay (2009 – PG-13). This is a comedic cautionary tale for those who don’t make funeral plans, or for those who make plans but get married way too many times. It’s especially instructive on the need to keep estate plans up-to-date. Stars include Tim Allen, Elisha Cuthbert and Andie MacDowell.
Bernie (2012 – PG-13) is a comedy based on a true story of a funeral director who takes up with a much-hated wealthy widow in the small east Texas town of Carthage. She becomes possessive to the point where he loses his sweet nature, kills her, then goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she’s still alive. He’s charged with her murder, and the townsfolk support Bernie. The film stars Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine and Matthew McConaughey.
Waking Ned Devine (1998 – PG) starring Ian Bannen and David Kelly. After Ned Devine dies from the shock of winning the lottery, two longtime friends, Michael and Jackie, discover the body. They embark upon an outrageous scheme to claim the jackpot by getting all the townsfolk to go along with their plan. There’s a lovely scene that raises the idea of being present at one’s own funeral and hearing what people would say about you.
Get Low (2010 – PG-13) starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, and Sissy Spacek. This comedy/drama is based on the true story of a Depression-era man who threw himself a “funeral party” while he was still alive to hear what people would say about him. It shows how much detail goes into planning any kind of party, especially a funeral party.
And don’t forget the Emmy Award-winning TV classic “Chuckles Bites the Dust” from the 1975 season of The Mary Tyler Moore Show! The story involves the untimely death of the TV station’s resident clown and his funeral. You’ll laugh, relax and learn. The program ends with the characters discussing what they each want for their funerals, the perfect opportunity to start a conversation when the show is over.
And lastly, how about It’s a Wonderful Life? It does deal with a man who contemplates suicide and learns lessons about the value of every life.
Most of these videos are available from Netflix or Amazon.com. You can find other funeral planning film recommendations at https://agoodgoodbye.com/funeral-films/.
Wishing you the happiest of holidays!
Gail Rubin, CT