When I saw the cast list on this DVD I was extremely torn. On one side there were the talents and draw of Andy Serkis, while on the other there was the name of Sacha Baron Cohen, the man behind Ali G, you would struggle hard to find two more opposite talents.
Serkis, and the rest of the impressive British talent list, persuaded me to give it a fair viewing, so I stuck it in and pressed play, fired up the amp and settled down to a surprisingly good and realistic film.
I don’t often recount the story of a film in a review, after all you can usually read about them everywhere else, but the concept itself is a strong one and is followed throughout the movie, there’s hardly a breath where the Director strays from the original idea.
That idea is to keep the film in a first person viewpoint as Des (Milo Twomey) creates a home made movie of the downfall of the drinking club he and his friends are all members of as “El Presidente” (the leader of the club) Spider (Serkis) decides to get married and start growing up. Des doesn’t quite see it as that though, he sees it more as abandoning his mates and giving up who he really is, so through the wedding present of this video he sets about the task of ensuring that he won’t get married. Yet in doing so he discovers much more about himself.
His wedding video is “the Jolly Boys Last Stand” – from proposal to crunch – a sublime mix of deadpan, heart-aching comedy, gut-wrenchingly poignant moments, hilarious action and one-liners from some of today’s most recognisable and talented stars.Press Release – Spirit Level Film
Well forgive me if I say that some of the words used in the Press Release are a bit too strong, however they are actually right in many of their comments. I was surprised at how good this movie was, especially after the lacklustre opening credits.
There’s not many big laugh moments, although I did have a few out loud laughs. It’s more amusing reflections on those life changing moments, and there are some very strong connections to be made with your own life when you watch it. These moments where you watch the characters and understand what they are going through, identifying with their circumstances and feelings is where the movie has it’s strength.
I’m sure it’s not just me that identifies with having such strong bonds with friends that suddenly change or, to some degree, are threatened by the arrival of a love interest. Some of the behaviour of the characters and their actions are all too identifiable, and sparked some memories of things I’ve done…or rather been witness to.
Carrying the strength of those well chosen characters and situations is the excellent script. The writing is extremely natural and realistic, no duff lines or corny moments in this film. Sure there are some cringeworthy scenes, but these are down to characters being in some embarrassing (and again identifiable) situations. Much of the humour is built through these connections and awkwardness.
Then there’s the acting. I was surprised to see how little acting there seems to be. None of the performances could be deemed as startling or exceptionally strong, but to me that’s because there’s no great moments that require an actor to reach out to the audience and push a performance of their life. Instead we see some extremely real performances, characters behaving like real people, like you and me. There’s nothing overplayed here, in fact there’s a lot of underplay, and it works really well at providing us with such realistic characters onscreen.
Serkis, Rebecca Craig and Twomey have to have a special mention for that type of performance, particularly Serkis. They provide such good acting that you really believe in their character, and at times you really do feel as though you are watching a home made video. There are other characters who are more over the top to provide stronger comedy elements, and some of their deadpan and self-believing delivery of lines provide for some very funny moments.
I have to say that I was surprised at how Cohen plays his character, never totally managing to abandon the characters he has created, he still manages to actually be someone almost normal. However there is an annoying habit of him picking a space to look at while he delivers his lines, that reminded me that he was an actor in a scene again and again.
All this combined together makes for a film that is very believable and totally identifiable with, I could almost name some of these characters from my own friends and life (watch them all scurry to work out who!). The writing and acting gives a strong taste of real life and some of the defining moments of friendships and growing up.
Presented: Dolby Digital 2.0 \ 16:9
Not really much to say here as the style is all video camera and filmed from the lead character point of view, so it’s handheld and, well, home video style. It works well and is perfectly suited to the film.
Presented: Audio Commentary by Cast and Crew, Casting Screen Tests
The Audio Commentary has some extreme levels of audio, one minute you’re turning it up to try and hear someone whispering in the background, and the next everyone’s shouting excitedly and you’re deafening yourself and the neighbours.
That said it’s an interesting commentary, mainly from finding out about how actors act. There are some interesting discussions about preparing for scenes, and how the actors bring the script to the moment. Perhaps more insightful than anyone would be in a bigger movie.
The casting scenes are simply that, short videos of some of the cast pulled in to play their characters in front of a video. Perhaps the most interesting is seeing Craig act against an off screen Cohen. It’s here that Cohen provides one of his strongest performances and makes me think that these were unscripted, perhaps he copes better off script?
It’s an enjoyable movie, and one that will have you identifying with some of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. The acting is played down and very real, boosting the strength of the already strong script. Funny, entertaining and very satisfying.
In a way, this movie reminded me of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but with real life added, and with the corn and twee surgically removed.