Film review: David Brent Life on the Road

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Is Ricky Gervais’ new film a ‘soaring eagle’ or a real dead end? Laura Bradnick gives her verdict.

It’s been 13 years since The Office ended and the world has changed considerably – but David Brent hasn’t. He’s still the same well-meaning, but ultimate cringe-worthy disaster that he was when he left our screens all those years ago, and it’s a credit to Gervais that he’s maintained such a well built character.

The premise of the movie is as simple as anticipated. Brent, star of BBC Two’s The Office, returns as a sales rep who takes unpaid time off work to tour with his band, Foregone Conclusion. Gervais thankfully keeps the plot fairly straightforward, and while I’m thankful that he didn’t divert into the ridiculous realm that is Hollywood, the narrative does become slightly repetitive.

Did I expect a little more? I mean, if I was expecting a film driven by a plot and heavy on action, then I feel like I was always setting myself up for a loss – but I think viewers will be expecting a wider variety of jokes and comedic situations than consistently empty gigs, and empty gags.

Even though you do hear about his hours of therapy, a prozac addiction and his breakdown after leaving Wernham Hogg, you never really see the character develop much past his awkward laugh and semi-embarrassed side glances at the camera. This desperate giggle, a thankfully familiar sound at the beginning, occurs with such frequency throughout the movie that it soon becomes tiresome, and begins to feel like a filler for scenes without much humour.

Despite this, there are a lot of redeeming features to this film. At its best, some of the jokes are hilarious and completely cringeworthy, which is what you’re hoping for if you’re fans of The Office.

The notion of a 45-year-old man self-funding a tour for his rock band is ridiculous but works well for the character who has always been a dreamer. It might be a funny premise but the mocking Brent receives for his band, and nothing short of bullying from his co-workers, reveals a much darker undertone to the film that fans of The Office will be less familiar with, and there were moments where Brent genuinely tugged at my heartstrings.

Surprisingly I felt that the saving grace of Gervais’ film was the musical elements. He wrote the songs with former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows, so the songs are technically well written and undeniably catchy; Burrows himself commended Gervais for having such a good love and knowledge of rock music in order to spoof it as well as he does.

At times it does feel a little like the film could be a channel for Gervais’ own rock star ambitions, especially as he’s releasing the films songs on an album. But if I’m honest, I enjoyed those moments too.

Although seemingly basic comedy songs on the surface, his 15-track album is actually very serious to Brent as he feels like he’s spreading the word of justice and equality for everyone. I mean, of course the lyrics of the songs are in fairly bad taste, but that’s exactly who Brent is and they perfectly capture the spirit of his character.

I highly doubt that the film of the album will be number one best-sellers, but they will give Gervais’ fans a serious laugh, and ultimately that’s what we all want – plus an answer to whether there ever will be a boy born who can swim faster than a shark.

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