Review – David Brent: Life on the Road
Attempting to go to the cinemas with the intention of reviewing this was tough because Ricky Gervais is my favourite comedian. Maintaining that open mind when the comedy naturally tickles you put me in a situation where I felt like I should not review it. Anyway, here we go.
If you are expecting David Brent to be different from The Office (2001) “documentary” days then you will be obviously mistaken. David is older, yet he has not changed. Despite the breakthrough scene where the character had a successful date at the office Christmas party and told his ex-manager to “f**k off,” he still has not learnt to mingle in social groups. He is still trying to impress too hard with his conversation and humour to the point he trips himself up and socially excludes himself. The difference is that this David Brent does not want an office job anymore. He wants to do what he loves, which is music.
Even though the story is years ahead of The Office series Ricky Gervais manages to continue the life of Brent without ruining the character. His misplaced arrogance and attempts to insert himself into every social situation is cringeworthy, but because of that reaction, it is hilarious. I found myself on many occasions covering my mouth in disbelief at the situation. The premise of the story is that David Brent has been working as a sales rep and in his spare time he has put together a plan to put a band together and do a tour using his money. The day has come where he decides to take an extended holiday and do the tour with an unconvinced band behind him.
There is almost an air of sadness around the character this time because he has this enthusiasm which pushes him to believe failure is not an option. This tour is more like a pub tour, yet he thinks it will land them all a record label. Also, the social exclusion Brent faces in this film is much more extreme than in The Office, but it works because within the comedy you witness a David Brent handling that awkwardness of touring without having any real close relationships. Ricky Gervais graces the screen with his usual awkward faces and other expressions which have you laughing more than the jokes. It feels weird seeing David Brent in a different world to the one we are accustomed too, and I guess in a way you miss him in the world of being a boss in the office. In a way, he still acts the same as the boss. He walks in bubbling with energy cracking jokes left, right and centre, despite the lack of laughs, and then you realise you have missed this. You have craved the awkwardness, and this type of comedy Gervais can bring.
As for the jokes, yes, some pushed the boundaries, which you can always expect from the comedian, and I am sure it will not be to everyone’s taste, but if you like David Brent, then you will enjoy this film. That I can guarantee. And the whole film is not just full of jokes. Other elements serve as serious plot points and make you question David Brent as a person. Is he that bad? Or is there more behind it? Ricky Gervais has this way within his material of allowing the comedy to lead but thickening it with social messages that you were not expecting to become part of the plot.
As for the casting, I think the right people were chosen for the band to tour, but the most noticeable performance came from Doc Brown, who plays Dom. He is an unknown rapper who awkwardly does not sit properly in the band, and David Brent believes he is managing him. Doc provides a performance that shows slight sympathy for David throughout while trying to make it on his own. You could argue that the performances from other characters could have come across a lot stronger however this is solely about David Brent, and arrogantly that’s what he wants the “documentary” to be.
As for the structure of the film, it plays like The Office, where you have a sequence of scenes followed by a direct interview with the characters. It does well to interview a range of different characters to get their thoughts on David Brent, whether it’s someone from the band or his colleagues from the office. The interviews did not feel as useful as they do in The Office, especially in a 90-minute feature, and the funniest ones came from Ricky Gervais himself. The songs made for this film performed by the band are chucklesome, and if rumours are true that he may do a comedy tour with this band as David Brent, then I would not hesitate to get a ticket.
Overall Ricky Gervais managed to bring back a character we thought we’d never see again, and he made the character as socially excluded as ever. As for continuing the story? I do not believe David Brent would be harmed if his story stopped here, and who knows what Ricky Gervais has in store for us in the future, but if he left it here, then he does so by making a decent comedy about the controversial character.
It’s far from perfect, but I do not feel any fan expected it to be. Gervais has brought David Brent back in an acceptable way in a storyline that is not over-egged and places a reality on the character. There is much to be learnt about David Brent in the film which you will soon realise.
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