David Brent: Life On The Road is a perfect example of a movie that illustrates Ricky Gervais’ many talents. Directed, produced, written by, and starring the multi-award winner (who has time to list them all?), Ricky Gervais gives life again to David Brent, the all-too-real fictional boss from his mockumentary series, The Office.
Gervais makes a wise directorial move to let the characters and music tell the story and the film opens with a familiar shot of David Brent talking to the camera. Making a point to hilariously not mention the fourteen years passed since his fifteen minutes of fame as the boss of paper company Wernham-Hogg, David Brent’s introduction to the movie will evoke nostalgia in avid The Office fans and also bring new viewers on board with David Brent’s aspirations of being a rock star.
David Brent: Life On The Road is anchored on its musical content and naturally, having been written and performed by Ricky Gervais himself, brought constant laughs throughout the film. We were already in stitches two minutes into the film when we realised the opening credits were accompanied by David Brent’s first punchy tune, Life On The Road (a new favourite song, I’m not even mad).
The songs were all hilarious in their own bizarre way. The lyrics to “Slough” were just so unbelievably boring, “Please Don’t Make Fun Of The Disableds” had me and my friend literally yelling, “WHAT IS HAPPENING?” and I was stoked to hear a bit of “Lady Gyspy”, which has been released as a promotional music video prior to the film’s release.
I must also commend the costume designer who did a wonderful job confirming that David Brent’s rock star aspirations are still heavily influenced by the 1980s. Always looking wildly out of place in his vintage brown leather jacket or on-stage outfit of a ruffled shirt and dark patterned waistcoat, it’s a stark contrast to the everyday suits we are used to seeing him in around the office. Double denim is making a comeback so I did support Brent on that short-lived costume change but unfortunately, he didn’t quite pull it off.
Ricky Gervais is a renowned writer and actor and anyone who has seen his stand-up shows and sitcoms will know how intricately weaved his comedy and call backs can be. The long, awkward monologues and interactions were so natural, they made me wonder how much was improvised and if they just let the camera keep rolling and let Gervais do his thing. Also, there’s a classic David Brent dance (thank god) which had me laughing so hard I nearly fainted.
Moreover, the thing that really did stand out for me was the character development of David Brent. He’s cringe-worthy, selfish, and unintentionally offensive but you’re enlightened on his deeper nature in such a way that you go through waves of empathy and frustration that he isn’t getting what he wants. You forget he’s a fictional character and you forget it’s not actually a documentary because David Brent exemplifies real human aspirations and vulnerabilities.
After all, David Brent is simply an exaggeration of two qualities we all have and can empathise with; a person trying to make their dreams a reality and a person who simply wants to be liked by others. In fact, the only insufferable character by the end of the movie was that goddamn radio presenter that didn’t let David Brent speak.
There’s always a character to relate to, and it will often switch quickly depending on the scene. There are those moments where you really do feel for David Brent, and then there are those moments where he’s unbearable and rambling on about something so inappropriate; in fact, in one of his painfully uncomfortable song introductions that wouldn’t end, I inadvertently yelled out at the same time as one of the band members in the movie, “JUST STOP”.
I mean, this whole review has basically turned into “Why You Should Admire Ricky Gervais”, but I do and you should. It’s impossible not to highly commend him when this film is literally all his own creation. I’m sure in some ways, David Brent is a real part of Ricky Gervais. Not cringe-worthy or socially inept (I would hope), but the part that is always looking for what he can achieve next and doing something about it. So it’s difficult to say where this profound quote comes from because while it was spoken by David Brent, it was written by Ricky Gervais;
“I could live without being a ‘success’ but I couldn’t live without trying.”
And that’s it, isn’t it? A true comedy film with a boss moral. Just go see the film when it is released in New Zealand on 1st September 2016. It’s straight up brilliant.