Monday, 13 September 2010

Cemetary Junction

Some people would have you believe The Office or Extras was Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's greatest achievement. I, on the other hand, would have to disagree. Their brilliance was never bettered than their fleeting years on the Xfm show back in the early 2000s, because Gervais and Merchant are at their most magnificent when they are just being themselves - genuine, witty, intelligent, and downright charming men.

It then pains me to say that Cemetery Junction does not convey their natural affinity with the human condition. Set in 1970s Reading (not too far from where I grew up), three early-twenty-somethings try desperately to escape the fate of their parents in the dead end town of Cemetery Junction. Certain elements are noticeably autobiographical with Gervais' own life: a working class up bringing in Reading, surrounded by low ambitions and even lower salaries. This film promised to see a more serious side of the writing partnership, as Gervais exclaims in Empire Magazine "It's the best thing we've ever written!". It's a mystery then that the film is, quite frankly, lightweight. Think The Inbetweeners meets The Full Monty.

Don't get me wrong, I wasn't expecting Nil by Mouth, but I was hoping the grittiest thing in the film wouldn't be the overuse of the word 'cunt'. Gervais and Merchant play the tough game of juggling drama and comedy, and ultimately fail to deliver a tonally consistent film; as the characters are a mismatch of absurd Basil Fawlty adults and hard-as-nails youths, all living in the same universe. It should also be noted that Gervais' appearance is about as necessary and M. Night Shyamalan's ridiculous cameos.

Winstone in Nil by Mouth: Wife beating, alcoholic scumbag
Gervais in Cemetery Junction: Bit of a tit

The film succeeds the most when they're playing for laughs, as that's what Mervais (I'm coining this) are best at. The three main characters obviously have a very natural 'banter' with each other, making them highly watchable as they verbally rip each other to shreds. They always said The Office was centred around Tim and Dawn's romance, but without the comedy it would have been a pretty flimsy plot. The thing that stops the film from being a charming British comedy (and more a Hollywood melodrama) is the relentless 'dead-end living' nonsense. The metaphors and concepts are so heavy handed that you feel like you've stepped into a self-help class on 'How You Should Do Something With Your Life'. It just comes off a little pretentious and whiny.

I do not want to belittle Mervais' talent for filmmaking, as altogether its a fairly cohesive piece of light entertainment. I was just hoping for something a little less froffy.

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