Freelove Freeway: A review of David Brent: Life on the Road

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As much as a return to the world of David Brent is unnecessary, it must be noted that A. this isn’t The Office: The Movie and B. Ricky Gervais has worked hard to give LOTR a reason to exist. There’s none of the original cast, except Gervais, and Co-Creator of The Office Stephen Merchant hasn’t come along for the ride either.

But the Film doesn’t feel like its really missing anything because it’s a completely different beast. Gervais has resurrected the character to sate no-one but himself and in doing so he’s successfully managed to remove the character of Brent from the world of The Office and place him in this Film without any mess.

There’s no cameos or callbacks to the show and it doesn’t besmirch the good name of the series. It lives and breathes on its own, capturing the spirit of the character whilst creating a new story that adheres to the backstory of The Office.

Whilst, at times, it’s not quite as subtle as the show that spawned it, despite his brand of carefree controversial comedy, Gervais is surprisingly the more sentimental of the two Office creators, it works on a character level.

Any fan of The Office will know that it’s not the cringe comedy that resonates, it’s the moments of pathos dotted throughout the 14 episodes. Just take the final episode of season two where Brent begs to not be made redundant, which works so well because it’s a rare moment.

The Office always worked because it had the humour and the characters, but was entirely about real people and it felt like we could relate.

Life on the Road has this, it has these moments of pathos and sadness that resonate because though Brent is an ass, he also just wants to be liked. That’s why the Film ultimately succeeds, the grand triumph at the end is not Brent securing a record deal or playing to a cheering audience, but rather one man telling him that’s he likes him.

What other Film this year could have a finale built on one simple phrase “I like you” and have it mean so much?

Gervais wouldn’t have made this Film if it couldn’t have these moments, he knows that the Film is underneath it all quite sad, as Brent cashes in his pensions to have one final shot at making it as a rock star.

It’s sad, melancholic and deftly played but luckily it never falls into oversentimentality. That’s the most important part of the Film, so it must be remembered for handling its drama with a simple touch, but its humour does flail a little.

I expected to laugh a lot more than I did, which maybe I credit to the Films central character that I went in looking to cry more than laugh, but that’s what happened.

There were plenty of jokes and some hit and like The Office, it takes cringy offensive humour as far as it can go. I understand that Brent is offensive without meaning to be and that it should be expected but some jokes, particularly one regarding a portrayal of some Asian stereotypes, goes a bit too far for me.

I imagine if it were in The Office, maybe Merchant would’ve restrained the moment, had Brent be interrupted before he went too far. Like a horror movie, it’s funnier if we only catch a glimpse of something offensive. We know what it is, we don’t need to see actually be done, so for me, it doesn’t work.

Oddly later on in the Film, the use of the N-Word repeatedly works in context. Brent, drunk and being carried to his room by bandmate/rapper Doc Brown asks to be called by the N-Word, thinking that he can better ingratiate himself with the aspiring rap star.

The moment is played well and ties into Brent as a character and Brown reacts appalled though it doesn’t excuse it as it’s never necessary.

Overall the Film makes a case for its existence, sending Brent on a road trip that is as much about one last chance to make his life mean something as it is a rock tour.

The Film is occasionally very funny and the songs are catchy but what really resonates is the nuance of Gervais’ performance and the pathos that he’s brought over from The Office. It’s not great but it’s not bad.

Rating: B-

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