David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) Content Warning: Bad Language, Crude Humour
David Brent: Life on the Road (2016)
Directed by Ricky Gervais
Starring Ricky Gervais, Rob Jarvis, Abbie Murphy, Mandeep Dhillon
A camera crew catches up with David Brent, the former star of the fictional British TV series The Office (2001), as he now fancies himself a rock star on the road.
IMDb Rating: 6.7
David Brent: Life on the Road
Ricky Gervais returns to the character who made him a star. It’s been fifteen years since The Office, and Brent still holds on to his dream of being a rock star. Ready to give it one last roll of the dice, Brent takes unpaid leave from his office job, and heads out on a three week “tour” with his band, Foregone Conclusion.
There’s not much that needs to be said about the plot. It is, as you would expect. Brent is still Brent; an immature man-child desperate to be popular and belong… to something. You can’t help but feel though that without Stephen Merchant’s influence, Brent isn’t entirely Brent. He’s more of a caricature of Brent; as though every facet of Brent’s personality has been exaggerated five times over.
Gervais promised a more personal look at Brent, and you can’t argue he didn’t deliver. For all his social ineptitude and his gross ignorance, Brent is a decent man. He’s a flawed man, sure. The petty, passive-aggressive behaviour we witnessed in The Office shows up again in Life on the Road, but you start to understand it more. Brent’s one of those people with dreams far beyond his talents. He wants to be a rock star, but while he clearly has some musical ability, he can’t write a song for shit.
A Less Dangerous Rupert Pupkin
So convinced, however, is Brent that he can make it as a rockstar, he spaffs twenty grand up the wall (having cashed in several pensions) on this grandiose plan to tour the clubs of Slough and somehow get a record deal. You know what, though? I get that. If I thought I could achieve my dream by throwing whatever I could at it, I would. Brent is equal parts brave and delusional for at least trying.
The film itself is much like Brent’s ambitions – aiming high but not quite making it. There’s a lot of standard Office-style humour; sitting, watching through parted fingers and feeling the embarrassment of everyone forced to witness Brent’s accidental racism and desperate attempts to be loved.
Unfortunately, the film gets stuck in this cycle. A few laugh out loud moments aside, Life on the Road loops over and over. We reach another venue, Brent sings a song, it goes as you expect, talking head, and repeat. While it may be this is supposed to be a subtle metaphor for Brent’s life, you get the feeling it’s more just sloppy writing. In one talking head, Brent’s band members comment on how Brent feels the need to explain every song before singing it. There’s an irony here, as the talking heads themselves seem to need to explain every joke. If Brent assumes that people won’t get his songs, you get the feeling Gervais assumes people won’t get his jokes.
And after all of this, we have a ham-fisted Deus ex of a happy ending thrown in. Suddenly, it turns out everybody likes David (well, except for Chris Finch 2.0) and off he walks into the sunset (sorta) with a new love interest. It’s cheery enough, but it comes without reason. Gervais even misses the obvious way of resolving the film so his desired ending makes sense, but that’d be a pretty big spoiler.
I didn’t hate Life on the Road, and there are some genuinely funny parts throughout. However, I do feel that were I to watch this a second time, it’d start to piss me off. Brent, apparently, has been stuck in some sort of personal stasis field since The Office concluded. He’s still the same dreaming numpty with delusions of grandeur and an incredible knack for not seeing how others perceive him.