Review - David Brent - Life on the Road
By midlandsmovies, Aug 31 2016 10:51PM
David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) Dir. Ricky Gervais
15 years after the success of The Office, Ricky Gervais’ cringe worthy creation returns in this TV spin off that maintains the mockumentary style laced with squirming humour.
Here we follow Brent post-Wernham Hogg – sadly there are no cameos from anyone else from the original series – as he pulls together a reluctant band for a tour (series of local gigs) of his questionable music material. His dreams of packed venues and getting signed by a record company couldn’t be further away as we see the deluded Brent aspiring for the stars with a group of musicians laughing at his efforts.
The laudable Foregone Conclusion fail on almost every level with Brent creating “visionary” and “political” songs such as ‘Native American’, ‘Equality Street’ and the less subtle 'Please Don't Make Fun of the Disabled'.
Despite all these fiascos, it’s Gervais’ talent as an actor and writer that helps elicit huge amounts of sympathy for Brent who – like many of us – dreams of leaving a mundane day job with ambitions (some may say delusions) beyond his boring everyday life.
Support comes from Ben Bailey Smith plays a great role as Dom Johnson, an aspiring rapper held back by Brent’s ineptitude and also Jo Hartley as Pauline, a sympathetic colleague. Of course, there are plenty of laughs throughout as Brent attempts at being politically correct fail as spectacularly as the band’s atrocious gigs with t-shirt cannon slapstick and embarrassing hotel sequences added to make the viewer snort and squirm at the same time.
It’s this pathos – the sad Brent piling every penny into his musical fantasy of “making it” – that gives the film a warm glow as you root for the character despite every wrong decision he makes. The British love a loser and there isn’t a bigger one than Brent and as much as you flinch from his humiliation, I found myself rooting for some sort of catharsis. The film doesn’t go the whole “Hogg” as it delivers the required upbeat ending which suggests some individual success but I found this crucial after an abundance of hopelessness.
Is the film much more than an elongated TV episode though? For me, not really. It sits nicely alongside Alpha Papa by refusing to ‘go bi’g to ensure their respective comedy creations had smaller local problems to deal with. But the film’s are all the better because of their undersized intimacy.
If you like Gervais’ comedy stylings then there is a lot to recommend in Life on the Road. As someone who has worked in an office and been on tour with a band there was so much reflecting back at me it was uncannily accurate at times. However, those who find Gervais grating will not be won over here. However, he makes Brent take centre stage on a musical odyssey that has both sensitivity and affection at its core but never forgets the chuckles.
Midlands Movies Mike