When hard-drinking Hubert Flynn comes home late and bedraggled for the umpteenth time, he wakes up transformed into the rat he truly is. But the movie Rat takes this event in stride; Flynn’s family is upset and surprised, but somehow they recognize the appropriateness of this turn of events–Flynn’s wife Conchita (Imelda Staunton from Shakespeare in Love, Sense and Sensibility, and Antonia and Jane) even takes a smug satisfaction in her husband’s fate. When a writer arrives and offers to help Conchita write a bestselling book about this odd turn of events, she seizes on the opportunity to squeeze something positive from the man who’s made her so miserable–and in the process, becomes a bit of a rat herself. Rat takes a little while to establish its comic tone, but once it settles into a kind of Irish magic realism, the deadpan reactions become strikingly funny. For example, when Conchita takes the rat to visit Flynn’s favorite tavern, one barfly blithely comments, Still, all things considered, he’s not looking so bad. Pete Postlethwaite (In the Name of the Father, The Usual Suspects) plays Flynn in his brief time as a nonrat. All the performances are excellent; particularly charming is Kerry Condon as Flynn’s daughter, who desperately tries to preserve some sense of dignity for her altered dad. With its whimsical humor and sardonic streak, Rat is no doubt destined to become a cult favorite. Fans of Monty Python will appreciate the movie’s sly verbal wit. –Bret Fetzer

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