Review: David Brent: Life on the Road
Director: Ricky Gervais
By Mae Anthony
Anyone who loved The Office (UK), will get a kick out of Ricky Gervais’ latest movie David Brent: Life on the Road. For those of you who don’t like the show, I’d avoid this at all costs. 15 years having passed since the show’s demise, the famous character from The Office (UK), David Brent (Gervais) is back, he’s just as socially inept, ridiculous, and sad as ever.
I’m not going to bother with extrapolating too much on the fact that, if you don’t like The Office, or Gervais’ cutting edge humour, this is not the film for you. Not unless you need a reminder that you have your life on track because you aren’t socially pathetic.
For the people who had the stomach to sit through 12 episodes of The Office at any point, will know that the putrid and painful comedy of Gervais’ famous character is a very specific kind of funny, yet it is universal in the sense that it is relatable. Everyone has had, or will have, to deal with that one pompous arsehole who tries too hard to be the top dog, or the office joker. So David Brent’s everyday man façade worked when he was the boss at Wernham Hogg, the fictional Trading Estate based in Slough, back in the days of The Office, but we get to see him 16 years later, a little older, and 20 times more pathetic. He’s now a sales rep at a toilet cleaning company. This time he wants to make it big, and he takes out a second pension just to go on a tour, as a musician, around the English country-side showing off his “amazing rock-star” music skills.
Another good piece of advice for you at this point: if you are politically correct, do not go see this. The thing about Gervais’ humour is that no matter how insensitive it is, it’s always delivered with the finest characterisation and supportive social commentary. But still, as someone who enjoys Gervais’ throat-slicing humour, it is brutal to sit and laugh at.
As far as a story arc goes, I believe the film had good intentions. It might be wrong to suggest that it was too short when about 30 minutes in I felt like I needed a Xanax, or some kind of muscle relaxant. Nearly two hours of this kind of stomach muscle-clenching humour can leave you feeling exhausted. But if the story were to fulfil its outlined premise properly, it would have needed to be either longer (cringe with me) or perhaps cut to the chase quicker. I just don’t believe that the characters could be that pissed off at Brent for being such an insufferable, non-ceasing twat, to then turn around five minutes before the end and show him some kindness. Sorry, kids, life just isn’t that charitable.
It’s touching in a way; there were many well intentioned “awwws” from audience members, including myself. Here we see an incredibly sad man who wants to be accepted; we see him fight for one last chance at happiness, a man who wants to live his lost-cause of a dream. We see office bullying and harassment in a rather shady and clouded light, and we see the way people stand up to overcome it.
David Brent: Life on the Road is showing in cinemas from August 25: please yourself. If you’re a fan, go; if you aren’t, don’t. If you’re curious, give it a crack. Either you’ll be reminded of some earlier, socially grotesque time, or you’ll have something to bitch about at the office the next day, aside from your fellow co-workers.