David Brent: Life on the Road

Here's what local filmmaker Bill Taylor thought of David Brent's Big-Screen outing

David Brent: Life on the Road

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Director: Ricky Gervais

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Rob Jarvis, Abbie Murphy and Ben Bailey Smith 

Synopsis

A camera crew catches up with David Brent, the former star of the fictional British TV series The Office (2001), as he now fancies himself a rock star on the road. 

Review

I’m going to put it out there – I’m a fan of David Brent. A Brent-aholic. I loved the Brentisms from The Office – throwing half of a pile of CVs in the bin because you shouldn’t employ unlucky people. Genius.  With the release of “Life On The Road”, I wanted to like the film.

The film begins showing us where the once mighty king (manager) of Wernham Hogg has ended up – he is now a rep for a company that sells toilet supplies. He’s no longer a king of men, but now one of the workforce. He still, however, has the rock n roll dream, and so that’s what will become the driving force of the movie. Brent fronts, manages, and funds (through cashing in several pensions) his band called Foregone Conclusion mark II, and hits the road for a 3 week tour of London boroughs.

For fans of cringe worthy comedy, you’re going to be in for a treat – from embarrassing chats with women about sexual activity to explaining the lyrics and themes of songs to a non-existent crowd before singing, every awkward is a gem. Gervais bounces back into the shoes of Brent as if he never left them – where does one start and the other end?

A bit of a spoiler here – a lot of the plot is contrived to the point of unbelievability. Brent’s band constantly plays to single figures of people, yet are musically very good.  The songs, with Gervais’ writing, aren’t too shabby – some of them you’ll actually be humming on the way home from the film. Even the fact that Brent has to pay the musicians to have a drink with him at the end of a gig was very far-fetched for me – he’s not a bad bloke, he’s maybe a bit much to take at times, but he’s not rude – he’s just lonely and out of touch.  There was a tonal shift in the middle of the film that certainly plays on the character’s weaknesses in that he just longs for the approval of others.

Ricky Gervais as a writer, director, and performer in this film knows his material and audience, although it would have been nice to have a few cameos from others in the show.  There are times when the absence of Stephen Merchant was obvious, as Gervais has a tendency to go straight for the heartstrings.  The finale of the film had me in floods of tears as Brent is perhaps one of the most human characters ever portrayed on film – he may be a loser, but he’s certainly a lovable one.

Verdict

With his dreams of becoming a rock god, David Brent uncovers a universal truth, which we should take to heart.   By the end, we’ve all learned an important life lesson, which is directly from one of his heroes – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime you find you get what you need.

 

Review by Bill Taylor

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