Saturday, 20 August 2016

David Brent: Life on the Road

Year of Release:  2016
Director:  Ricky Gervais
Screenplay:  Ricky Gervais, based on characters created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Starring:  Ricky Gervais, Ben Bailey Smith, Andy Burrows, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Rebecca Gethings, Tom Bennett
Running Time:  96 minutes
Genre:  comedy

In 2001 the TV series The Office, created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, was first broadcast and became almost immediately one of the most influential comedy shows in the last 20 years.  The show's most memorable character was David Brent (played by Gervais) the "boss from Hell", a mid-level office manager who described himself as "a friend first, boss second... probably entertainer third". In this feature film outing, Brent is now a sales rep for a company selling cleaning and sanitary products, but has not given up on his dreams of fame and fortune, and is lead singer and songwriter in the band Forgone Conclusion.  The film follows Forgone Conclusion on their three week tour of bars, clubs and student unions.

Like The Office, this film uses the "mockumentary" style of filming, and cringe humour with most of the comedy revolving around David Brent either completely dying on stage or saying something horribly offensive and inadvertently insulting or annoying everyone around him.  Ricky Gervais was a musician before he became a comedian and he can sing quite well.  One of the funniest elements in the show are Brent's terribly songs, that are either horribly offensive or ridiculously over-specific.  The film is funny, although the humour will be offensive to some people, and there is a level of heart to it.  Brent says horribly offensive things, but it seems more due to crassness, insensitivity and misguided attempts at bonding than from any real malice.  Ultimately Brent is presented as something of a tragic figure, who really just wants acceptance, friendship and fulfillment, as he continues to blow all of his own money after dreams of rock stardom.

Gervais, of course, is good as Brent, the character that made him a star, but Ben Bailey Smith (aka rapper Doc Brown) steals the show as Brent's bemused friend and bandmate.

The film sags a little towards the middle and falls into the common trap of big screen adaptation of British sitcoms where it feels like a blown-up Christmas special of the show, and to be fair this would probably be better seen on the small screen (I think it's being distributed on Netflix outside the UK).  As I said before, there is also a lot of humour that people will find offensive, so if you are not familiar with the UK version of The Office or Ricky Gervais' style of humour, proceed with caution.

However if you are a fan of The Office and/or Ricky Gervais' other works than you will probably enjoy it.

    Jo Hartley and Ricky Gervais in David Brent:  Life on the Road

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