Wednesday 24 August 2016

Film: 'David Brent - Life on the Road'

I appreciate that Ricky Gervais is not to everyone's taste, but he is to mine. If you liked 'The Office' and 'Extras' you'll want to see this. If you remained unmoved you'll simply not bother. In the event I did find this film largely very funny, with some genuinely LOL moments (not an easy thing to accomplish in my continuing condition!)

Rather than taking the character from 'The Office' and putting him into a blown-up, TV spin-off version of that show, he's taken forward in time, now as a travelling salesman for sanitary products (the full range!) working for a firm - 'Lavichem'. Brent takes time off from his job to indulge his personal desire of touring venues as an (ageing) rock star fronting a band ('Foregone Conclusion'), a foursome who are less than enamoured by having Brent's presence, both on- and back-stage, they doing it reluctantly for financial reasons. 

The film starts and ends with episodes in the Lavichem offices where we see Brent in the same character which endeared him to some of us in 'The Office', with all the same blustering traits and toe-curling pronouncements which we got to know so well from TV. And he's on every bit as good form with it here, though as this film doesn't have any of the support actors from 'The Office' off whom he could bounce with his unintentionally offensive or embarrassing lines, that's something of a loss. Having said that, there are a number of new characters who do fill the equivalent roles more than adequately - most especially his desk-neighbour with whom he forms, to the great irritation of other workers, something of a crazy, non-stop repartee, double act. I laughed a lot at their madcap exchanges.

The body of the film is Brent on the road with his band, the initially intended national tour having been massively reduced in scale, because of lack of interest, to virtually a single county just outside London. They perform in small clubs and bars with few people attending, while those in the sparse audience who are there quickly get bored or pay scant attention to what's happening on stage as Brent attempts to show that he's 'with it' (with hilarious moves). He's also roped in a rapper (Doc Brown) to perform with him, an act who, to Brent's chagrin, is more readily appreciated than he is himself.

Gervais has written his own songs. One about not discriminating against the 'disabled' and delivered with utterly intended sincerity is full of OMG! moments in the lyrics ("Take him by the hand - if he's got one.") Another song concerns the injustices suffered by Native Americans. All brilliant material!

Outside the stage act, in hotels or restaurants, the other members of the group and crew make it abundantly clear that they'd rather not be in Brent's company only, of course, he doesn't read the unspoken messages, leading to a spate of verbal tangling and foot-in-mouth moments.  

There seems to be a consensus that this film loses its 'oomph' in being too long for its material, which might have better suited a couple of half-hour TV shows. It's true that I did find that it does sag a bit around two-thirds through, but not fatally, in my view,

Also Gervais himself directs the film as well as having written all the lines himself. A further view has been expressed that it really needed a collaboration with someone like his 'Office' and 'Extras' co-writer, Stephen Merchant, to sharpen things up and edit things down. But again I find myself in disagreement. Yes, there might have been room for some improvements but I do think that Gervais even alone acquits himself with honours.

In a previous review I voiced my approval of the recent film version of 'AbFab', which some didn't share. I'm prepared to receive similar notes of disagreement for my positive take on this film. I've got to be honest - I laughed more times during this than in any other film this year and, from the sound of it, many in the audience did too..................7.5.


  1. Ray,
    I like Ricky Gervais and his offbeat sense of humor. He reminds me of my all time favorite, W.C. Fields. I hope I can get this film on Netflix. Unfortunately, most of the films you review Netflix doesn't carry. Which is a shame.

    1. This film has widely distributed in cinemas here, Ron, and is doing well. Considering that Gervais has become quite a big name in the States too it's a pity that it's not getting similar treatment there.
      I hadn't expected you to be a fan of his - I find that few people I know are - but it pleases me to discover it.

      W.C.Fields is a name I know much more than any any appearance of his on film. In fact the sole film I've ever seen of his is 'My Little Chickadee' which, I believe, is not a good representation of his act. (Anyway, I read that he and Mae West fought like cats when they were filming it).
      Perhaps it's time I searched out for clips of him on the web.

  2. Love Ricky Gervais...hope this comes somewhere we can see it here. I think he's hysterical (although I know no one who shares my opinion). I also love that he is a huge and influential animal rights advocate.

    Hope you are feeling better!

    1. Now I'm finding out that there are more Ricky G fans in my circle of 'acquaintances' than I realised, Elle. Was starting to think that everyone apart from me disliked him. You're going to really love this film as his character has all his usual verbally gormless traits. I do hope you're able to catch it on the big screen.

      As for the other business, I'm still awaiting a hospital appointment for an examination. Inside myself I'm feeling okay though eating is a constant problem, and will continue to be until remedial works are done - as well as having to keep my mouth closed when outside, it being still a ghastly sight when I have to open up to talk.
      But thanks for your thoughts.

  3. Hey Ray, How are you feeling? Has it been raining cats and dogs like it has been here?

    1. No cats and dogs, Sol - well, only the furry kind. And very little rain either.

      Feeling fine, but as apprehensive as ever as I still await hospital appointment followed by start of dental works, which is going to take a lot of time over several sessions and is sure to hurt like hell! Thanks for asking, though.