Funny and unexpectedly moving, but it’s time to say goodbye to Brent.
Prior to watching the film, I’ve spent the past few days watching The Office (the show David Brent originates from for those who don’t know). Not to refresh my memory – I had never seen it. A few clips here and there, but that was it. Ultimately I still prefer the later U.S version, but I enjoyed the original enough to warrant a trip to the cinema.
13 years after the documentary aired, David Brent is now a sales rep for a cleaning products distributor in Slough. But this isn’t what he wants – he wants to be back on stage. He assembles a band of musicians and a promising rapper for a revival of ‘Foregone Conclusion’, his former band. Using his pension, he funds a tour to try hit the big time.
For those who need bursting-at-the-seems, grand-scale stories, this obviously isn’t for you. It’s a grounded tale, definitely made for the fans and not newcomers. Not that people late to the party can’t enjoy it, but I’d highly recommend watching the original show first.
Life on the Road is at it’s best when Gervais goes off the improvisation rails, bathing in cringe-worthy situations where you’ll chuckle and shake your head. There’s plenty of this to go round, Gervais showing that even the simplest of exchanges, such as explaining one of his songs, can be turned into comedic gold.
That being said, it’s a lot of Brent-humour to take in. Each episode of The Office – bar the Christmas specials – lasts around 28 minutes. Life on the Road emphasises why that worked so well. In small amounts, it feels like you can’t get enough of Brent. But having experienced 96 minutes of him, I’ll tell you it’s too much. The awkward situations, the embarrassment, the mockery of fat people – the laughter fades and boredom sets in.
We spend a significant amount of time watching ‘Foregone Conclusion’ perform, which albeit brings in a few laughs – some we may not like to admit to – soon loses it’s charm. The band members themselves don’t add much to the proceedings, spending most of their screen time moaning about Brent.
We see a lot of people moaning about Brent – apart from a select few. A receptionist, and two other office workers are on his side. This is where the rather unexpected emotional turn takes place. These characters support Brent, pointing out that he just wants to have a laugh and be liked. His personality is an act, likely heightened by his experiences following the series being aired. I never expected to be moved by the film, but I found myself feeling deeply sorry for Brent, as well as thinking he’s a tit.
To sum it up…
Life on the Road may not be a trip down the ‘Free Love Freeway’, but it’s still enjoyable. Giving us some spectacularly cringey scenes, fans will remember their love/hate relationship with Brent like it was yesterday. The emotional arc was a pleasant surprise for me, but as a character, like his position at Wernham Hogg, he is now redundant.
Rating: No bad
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Author: Cameron Frew