Tag Archives: David Brent

GET OUT

“…a pair of hired hands, whose demeanour could reasonably be likened to that of Carlton Banks (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) on ketamine…”

Wayward Wolf.

What appears to be Jordan Peele’s first official outing as a director, has seen him take on one of those films whose narrative and plot reveals will probably fool no-one. I second-guessed pretty much every last attempted twist and turn that played out for the film’s duration.

And truth be told, I enjoyed every last minute of it.

Proof positive that if you choose to do something, and do it well, it’s always worth doing whether it’s pushing boundaries or not.

Get Out is a tense, at times deeply awkward and darkly humorous piece which, initially at least, pits ‘loved-up’ couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an African American lad, and his white girlfriend, Rose (Jennifer Connolly’s long lost sister? Allison Williams), against her well-meaning but ‘trying-way-too-hard’ all-round embarrassing caucasian parents. The parents are seemingly intent upon making their African-American guest feel as welcome as possible through a succession of strategically-placed cringeworthy positive race references, and by illustrating a deep devotion to Barack Obama. Think David Brent’s Equality Street, and you’re on the right track.

It’s all harmless enough, though Chris’s suspicion that something may not be quite right is aroused on the realisation that The Armitages employ a black maid and gardener to work on the family estate. This, naturally, is all justified by way of a reasonably plausible back story, but on closer inspection there’s definitely something a little ‘off’ about a pair of hired hands, whose demeanour could reasonably be likened to that of Carlton Banks (Fresh Prince of Bel Air) on ketamine – an almost total betrayal of their African-American roots.

Nonetheless, Chris’s primary task in hand is to be positively charming in order to impress Rose’s parents; something he seems to be well on his way to accomplishing until a late night ‘encounter’ with Rose’s mother, Missy, (the ever-beguiling Catherine Keener), puts a serious dent in any such plans.

From thereon in, Chris must face the daunting truth that he is not so much being accepted, as forced into Rose’s family circle.

But should one want to, how does one Get Out?!

As mentioned previously, if one takes a step back from the action, Jordan Peele’s eerie tale offers few genuine twists or shocks, and quickly evolves into a fairly straight forward, albeit slightly off-the-wall thriller.

No matter, it’s highly entertaining stuff, and successfully fuses the macabre and the sinister with the seriously off-beat and comical – Chris’s constant text and phone commentary with fellow African-American best friend, professional cynic and security guard – the larger than life Rod (Lil Rel Howery) –  is a constant highlight, throughout.

Kaluuya’s solid lead performance, a strong and believable chemistry between him and on-screen girlfriend, Williams, the substantial weight provided by a good quality support cast, and the insightful, albeit playful undercurrent of race and its perceived ‘place’ in society, all serve to bind this piece together, convincingly.

Get Out may not be overly original, but if we accept that there’s a specific winning formula that should be aspired to for any movie of this type, then it’s only fair to say that in this instance, director Jordan Peele has absolutely nailed it.

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: David Brent – Life on the road

It’s been well over ten years now since Ricky Gervais called a halt to his massively successful mockumentary TV series, The Office, with a two-part Christmas special which  brought an emotional end to one of the finest home-grown sitcoms of our time.

Being such a revered slice of British popular culture we have to pose the question: Is it wise to re-visit something that was to all intents and purposes ‘perfect’ as it was. Isn’t it always best to leave well alone?

David Brent: Life on the road (DB:LOTR) follows Slough’s finest once again, over ten years later, in another mockumentary that chronicles an exciting time in David Brent’s life; the re-birth of his band ‘Foregone Conclusion’ – or more accurately ‘Foregone Conclusion, Mark II’ – and what David hopes will be a lucrative (both financially and career-wise), UK tour (of the Berkshire area).

He’s assembled a decent band of session musicians, and together with a reluctant ‘acquaintance’, and an overpaid sound engineer, Brent hopes that collectively they can produce some magic and launch themselves (but launch David Brent, more specifically), into the big time.

Yes, Brent is clearly still a man of considerable delusions, and the allure of the Rock ‘n’ Roll dream still burns brightly in the ageing sales rep’s eyes, and more importantly, heart.

DB:LOTR is particularly notable for a couple of things:

Those ‘fortunate’ enough to be thrown together with Brent – be it his office colleagues at Lavichem where he is now a sales rep of feminine hygiene products and the like, or his on-tour band and crew – all seem to fit strangely familiar roles within Brent’s life and adopt similar attitudes towards him, much in the same way that we remember the original cast members of The Office adopting, back in the day.

Whilst this perhaps smacks a little bit of Gervais playing it safe with the formula here, we also have to remind ourselves that unless Brent has undergone some massive personality change over the interim years, he will almost certainly still be largely the same socially inadequate fool that he ever was, and in turn will still gravitate towards similar surrounds and find himself embroiled in similar scrapes and predicaments. This in turn will almost inevitably draw the same largely exasperated reactions and looks of disbelief from all and sundry.

Secondly, and perhaps more tellingly: Brent is no longer the boss. He’s just one of the rep’s at Lavichem, and considering the disdain with which he is treated on tour, even though he’s paying the wages and fronting his own band, neither does he appear to wear the trousers in his very own Rock ‘n’ Roll daydream.

Consequently, the vitriol and at times pretty hateful bile that is spewed in his direction by both colleagues and acquaintances alike – the kind of thing that once upon a time would have been noticeably toned down due to Brent’s elevated management status – is now harsh, spiteful and at times very personal. In fact, there were times during DB:LOTR when what would have previously been just toe-curling, squirm-inducing moments of comedy, were suddenly not so funny anymore, and rather painful to watch. Brent is seemingly now perceived not so much as ‘a bit of a harmless dick,’ but an altogether more poisonous presence to most of those with whom he interacts. David Brent is now a man well and truly forced out of life’s social circle, encouraged to make himself scarce, and very much alone in his own personal Siberia.

Perhaps it’s the passing of time and I’ve just gone soft in my old age, but, as much of a plonker as Brent undoubtedly is meant to be, there were moments in DB:LOTR that were actually rather upsetting and interestingly, such moments, rather than casting Brent in a bad light, were far more indicative of the thoughtlessness and negativity of others; traits that people so often exhibit in the face of a challenging personality or a difficult set of circumstances.

Unable to show even a little patience or compassion and understanding – Brent’s entourage are all far too self-absorbed within their own selfish ambitions and needs to consider the impact of their thoughtlessness upon others.

Of course, bearing in mind Brent’s own, at times self-absorbed ‘whacky funster’ of a personality, I am fully aware of the irony of this comment.

But let’s face it, I’m probably reading far too much into it all!

Whatever Gervais’ intentions with DB:LOTR were, it’s clear that the increasingly sentimental angle to his work – think Derek in particular, a sitcom that frequently swung between the down-right hilarious and the almost unbearably mawkish – is an area that he continues to believe in and pursue, and in all honesty, it’s probably this aspect that will most likely give DB:LOTR greater longevity than if it had been purely a vehicle for a sequence of madcap Gervais gags and one-liners.

Of course, the vast majority of people haven’t gone to DB:LOTR for psychological insights though, and the pertinent question remains: Does it make us laugh?

Thankfully, the answer is: by and large…yes.

DB:LOTR is in fact packed full of both nuanced and balls out slapstick comedy. Some of it is howlingly funny – Brent’s band unknowingly headlining a student ‘Shite Night’ at a local university, a particular highlight  – and some of the humour can be seen coming from a mile off – Brent’s botched attempts to become a little cooler by having a tattoo done. Nevertheless, DB:LOTR is certainly sufficiently funny throughout to appeal to most, even if it can all be a little predictable at times.

It’s hard to say where we go from here now with the whole David Brent concept. Perhaps surprisingly, I’d say there is still a little more mileage to be had out of Gervais’ favourite, deeply-flawed anti-hero, be that on the big screen or perhaps better still, back on the altogether more forgiving comedy medium of television. Either way, I certainly hope so.

Ultimately, DB:LOTR delivers. It offers few surprises,but in many ways, that doesn’t really matter.

It’s a film that follows a well-trodden path to bring us a touching story of misguided dreams and ambitions, but rather surprisingly it’s probably not the laughs that make it, but instead it’s Gervais’ penchant for over-sentimentality  – the sort of thing we’d probably be quick to decry when churned forth from the Hollywood machine.

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Weiner

There’s nothing the general public like more than a flawed hero. Actually no, change that. There’s nothing that the general public like more than taking the moral high ground and turning en masse on a hero, once said hero’s flaws have been suitably exposed; and boy how they turn, in their sheep-like droves.

In the case of Anthony Weiner, it was his misguided ‘sexting’ – if you’ll excuse the fashionable parlance – and the accompanying pictures of his bulging manhood, that was to cause such an affront, rendering vast swathes of the terminally morally-outraged U.S public irreversibly aghast at it all.

Never mind that this was a man whose New York City Mayoral campaign manifesto seemed personal, passionate and heartfelt, and was one rich in progressive and sensible ideas and policies designed to genuinely make a difference to the lives of the working and middle classes of New York City; and never mind that Weiner’s ‘virtual’ misdemeanours had already been forgiven if not forgotten, by his loyal, patient and politically savvy wife, Huma. No, the bottom line here was that Anthony Weiner – he of the comedy surname and heart-on-sleeve / regrettably rather injudicious, approach to life – was now perceived as nothing more than a social leper, a misogynistic arsehole, and all-round easy target number one for the mortally offended public and media alike, to lampoon and discredit at will.

I’m sure that a number of those that turned on Anthony Weiner felt they had good reason to do so and were indeed genuinely offended on both gender and moral grounds by his actions – fair enough I suppose, but the film gives off a definite sense that they are the idealistic minority and that a grateful media seized upon the unexpected Anthony Weiner windfall and milked the resulting heaven-sent circus for all it was worth. Predictably, the general public followed along obediently.

It is true that Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg’s documentary is not a flattering depiction of the New York political candidate; in fact, it seriously exposes (if you’ll excuse the pun) Weiner, warts and all. It’s also undeniably true that Anthony Weiner brought a lot of it on himself with his recurring habit of shooting himself in the foot when it would seem infinitely harder to miss – think David Brent meets Alan Partridge – and I’d be lying if I denied that the whole shebang makes for superficial, yet excellent, if at times rather painful, car-crash entertainment.

Weiner though, is a film that inadvertently serves to reveal the pack mentality and sheep-like nature of people and the at times suffocating effect that this has on humanity at large, when what the world is crying out for, surely, is a little more independence of thought?

It also says a lot about the bullying nature of the laughably conservative and deeply rotten media, both in the U.S and the world at large. Such a culture of flavour-of-the-month reporting, the taking of cheap shots and the encouraging of ‘safety in numbers’ public conformity, is far more damaging to society and meaningful political policies than anything Anthony Weiner could have dreamed up, let alone actually whipped out and revealed to the U.S public.

But personal prejudices aside for just a moment, in case this review is perceived as some kind of slant at the film, it isn’t. Weiner is actually a well-balanced, highly entertaining and brilliantly put together documentary, which allows events and circumstances to unfold in as fair a fashion as is possible.

Of course, any piece that turns a full-beam spotlight on an at times hapless anti-hero, and then steps back and allows nature and fate to take its course, had better be braced for a turbulent ride. It says a lot though that any turbulence experienced through the transgressions of Anthony Weiner, is rather upstaged by the repugnant sense of public and media self-righteousness that comes across from their collective, symbiotic, bile-filled attacks on the ill-fated man himself.

For me at least, as excellent as this film undoubtedly is, it’s an aspect that can’t help but leave an unavoidably sour taste in the mouth.