David Brent: Life on the Road

 

starstar

 

 

The man from the BBC's The Office attempts to become a rock star in true 

mockumentary form.

 

David Brent - Life On the Road   

Ricky the flash

 

There is something infectiously engaging about Ricky Gervais. Even when he’s not being particularly funny, his conviction in his own hilarity is, in itself, amusing. He’s also shown himself to be an accomplished film director with his first two efforts, the delightful and subtly provocative The Invention of Lying (2009) and the sweet and acidic Cemetery Junction (2010). Here, with his third directorial outing, he’s taken his character from the BBC’s The Office (2001–2003) and spread him across a feature-length mockumentary. Back in 2001 The Office seemed edgy, uncomfortable and different and just about fitted into its 30-minute time slot. The trouble with David Brent: Life on the Road is that it strays into the territory of This is Spinal Tap which, back in 1984, was edgy, different and hilarious. Both films are mockumentaries taking a look at the idiosyncrasies of the music business and both show how mental musicians can be. But Spinal Tap got there 32 years earlier – before the genre got threadbare.

 

David Brent isn’t even really a musician. He just wants to be one. Now a sales rep flogging cleaning products and tampons, he decides to cash in some of his pension to finance a tour of the UK as a rock star. At least, if not a star, then as a uniquely singular singer-songwriter, a cross between Michael Bublé and David Essex who rhymes Gloucester with Costa and writes about Native Americans and disabled people. And so he gathers some overpaid musicians around him and sets off for a life of music and hotel rooms, even though many of the venues are closer to his house than the hotel.

 

All this is captured by a documentary crew in an effort to create a cheap show to see where the reality star of The Office has ended up. As usual, Brent plays to the camera, gaily insulting minorities of every persuasion in spite of the humanitarian lyrics of his songs. It’s a hypocrisy of sorts. Indeed, David Brent is much more than just a blithering idiot – he is a deeply repellent man. His band refuses to let him on the extravagantly appointed bus he’s paying for, so he drives behind it, largely around the Watford and Reading area. And in order to have a drink with his mates, he pays them £25 an hour for the privilege. For some, it wouldn’t be enough at twice the price.

 

David Brent: Life on the Road – which Gervais directed, wrote and produced – elicits a few chuckles at the outset but gradually descends into a morass of embarrassment. Essentially, it’s a film about the making of an excruciating documentary about an excruciating man. Brent calls himself a triple-threat: an entertainer who brings the masses music, comedy and wisdom – except that the masses don’t appear. He also tells the camera that, “life is a struggle with beautiful little surprises.” There are a few surprises here, notably from some of the supporting players, particularly Jo Hartley as a co-worker, Tom Basden as Brent’s bewildered road manager and Andy Burrows – former drummer with Razorlight – as the drummer for Brent’s band, Foregone Conclusion. Again, Gervais exhibits a knack for directing his co-stars extremely well, but whether or not one wants to spend 95 minutes with the crass, whinnying David Brent is another matter entirely.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Ricky Gervais, Doc Brown, Andy Burrows, Tom Basden, Jo Hartley, Nina Sosanya, Tom Bennett, Andrew Brooke.

 

Dir Ricky Gervais, Pro Ricky Gervais and Charlie Hanson, Screenplay Ricky Gervais, Ph Remi Adefarasin, Pro Des Anna Higginson, Ed Gary Dollner.

 

Entertainment One/BBC Films-Entertainment One.

95 mins. UK. 2016. Rel: 19 August 2016. Cert. 15.