Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Film Review - Cemetery Junction written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant
Typical first novels are coming of age tales set where the author grew up with a version of himself taking the lead. Most should never have been written, or else left in the drawer. But given Ricky Gervais has already created 'The Office', one of the greatest comedies ever, together with 'Extras', a clever take on how his life might have played out if the comedy of embarrassment in his masterpiece had been replaced by catchphrases and canned laughter, I had high hopes for his first venture onto celluloid as an auteur rather than bit-part Hollywood player. I've no problem with 'Cemetery Junction' being occasionally comic drama, rather than occasionally dramatic comedy. But I was expecting more than a mediocre Brit-flick buddy movie that is formula without the bang.
It starts with 'Saturday Night, Sunday Morning' and ends with 'The Graduate' and in between quotes from classic cinema but never really breaks out of the small screen it might have been made for. Sure, the seventies decor has the volume turned up and the soundtrack is well chosen, ending with a sequence choreographed to Led Zeppelin's 'The Rain Song' that almost makes you sit up and notice, but never matches the grandeur of the music, but it lacks characters you care about going on a journey that matters - the essence of drama.
The only truly affecting performances are played by the two most experienced actors on set: Ralph Fiennes as the boss of an insurance company who might have made it out of the terraces but still treats his spouse like a char lady and Emily Watson as that much put upon wife who finally faces up to him and enjoys a moment of quiet triumph that reverberates loudly because of all they have put into the portrayal of a marriage. Some of the other 'grown-up' roles are creditable but it's the roles of the three mates grow up together fighting and farting that the movie and I just didn't care about them individually or collectively. Only Felicity Jones as the sweetheart impressed, but although she had screen time, the characterisation gave her little more than a series of cameos to work with.
Meanwhile, Gervais is another version of himself with added grime and stubble while Merchant looms into shot for a couple of gags that are peripheral to the plot. It's not that this pair don't have a film in them, it's that 'Cemetery Junction' isn't it. It'll get no audience outside of these shores but is worth a Saturday night on the sofa with popcorn if you're nostalgic for 1973 and want an easy night in with tunes you can hum along to.