"Cemetery Junction" DVD, Blu-ray Review

8/28/2010 Posted by Admin

"Cemetery Junction" DVD, Blu-ray Review

Directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Written by Gervais and Merchant, 95 Minutes, Rated R.

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

A '70s-based coming-of-age film is probably one of the last things one would expect from "The Office" and "Extras" creators Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, but "Cemetery Junction," the duo's first foray into filmmaking as a team (Gervais made his solo directorial debut last year with "The Invention of Lying"), is more like their brilliant British television shows than one might think. Is it as good? Not quite, but it is one of the better British films of the past few years, and it's a definite indication of the potential the two men have for cinema.

The film follows Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke) and Bruce Pearson (Tom Hughes), two friends just coming out of high school and preparing for the lives that have basically been set out for them--to live in their rundown hometown and work in the factory like their parents for the rest of their lives. Freddie dreams of having more, and after acquiring a job as an insurance salesmen under the wealthy and overbreaing Mr. Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), he hopes that someday he'll be able to overcome the low expectations set by his blue collar father (Gervais) and make a real life for himself. Bruce, however, is a bit less inspired. He's just fine drinking and causing trouble with Freddie and their friend Snork (Jack Doolan), though he admits a desire to leave his hometown that he understands won't ever come to fruition.

Despite the 1970s setting there are quite a few immediate similarities to "The Office." The nature of working is explored pretty heavily, with Gervais and Merchant giving pretty heavy jabs to the idea of working any sort of lifeless job, both blue collar and white, and the characters of Mr. Kendrick and Mike Ramsay (Matthew Goode) both have elements of Gervais' insensitive David Brent character. Also, the romance between Freddie and the character of Julie (Felicity Jones) is very reminiscent of that between Tim and Dawn on the show. Really, even if Gervais and Merchant didn't make appearances in the film (the latter just in a brief but hysterical cameo), you'd still be pretty hardpressed not to notice their signature humor and mix of sharp wit and emotional earnestness.

The main problem with the similarities, though, is that most of the points the duo is trying to make here are developed far better in "The Office," and even in some cases in "Extras." The only thing really distinguishing it is the period setting, and though it's used to pretty great effect most of the time, it can only go so far before it's just "The Office - 70s Edition."

The good thing is, "The Office" is great, so "Cemetery Junction" manages to work well enough despite being a bit overplayed. The performances, especially those of the two leads, Fiennes, and Goode, are fantastic, and the humor is balanced far better with the drama than Gervais' previous cinematic efforts (it's clear that Merchant is the one that reins in Gervais' excessive schmaltz). It's not a great film, though it could've been, but it's a good enough one and these two could really strike gold with a bit more practice and expanding their thematic horizons.

Grade: B-

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