CEMETERY JUNCTION (15, 94 mins) 5/10
Comedy. Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Matthew Goode, Ricky Gervais, Julia Davis, Anne Reid. Directors: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant.
Released: April 14 (UK & Ireland)
WITH the award-winning television series The Office and Extras, the creative partnership of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant re-sharpened the cutting edge of British comedy.
They revelled in the foibles of their misshapen characters, and watched with glee as their socially-inept creations weathered scorn for many toe-curling indiscretions.
The good friends have steadfastly resisted pleas to transplant their talents to the big screen, but finally relent with this disappointingly-cosy portrait of 1970s small-town angst.
If Gervais and Merchant had been asked to write an episode of the long-running ITV drama Heartbeat, albeit with slightly fruitier language, the result would be Cemetery Junction.
Set to a soundtrack of T Rex, Led Zeppelin, Mott The Hoople and The Osmonds, this predictable rites of passage yarn affectionately recreates the fashions of a bygone era as it jives lazily through a linear narrative of selfishness and redemption.
A more accomplished director might have pruned some of Gervais and Merchant’s plodding script and injected much needed pace. As it is, the duo assumes control in front of and behind the camera, and scenes drag on far longer than they need to.
More importantly, Cemetery Junction isn’t funny. Best friends Freddie (Christian Cooke), Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan) have very different outlooks on life. While Bruce enjoys being cock of his small-town walk and lovable loser Snork is happy to trail in his wake, Freddie dreams of something better. As Freddie’s ambitions broaden, the young men are forced to re-examine their friendship and contemplate whether their paths must diverge.
Best friends Freddie (Christian Cooke), Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan) have very different outlooks on life.
While Bruce enjoys being cock of his small-town walk and lovable loser Snork is happy to trail in his wake, Freddie dreams of something bigger and better.
"I don’t want to end up like my dad," he laments, "coming home every day with grease on my hands and nothing to show for it."
So Freddie applies for a job as a door-to-door salesman with Vigilant Life Assurance. The firm is owned by Mr Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), the father of old school sweetheart, Julie (Felicity Jones), who is now dating the company’s top salesman, Mike Ramsay (Matthew Goode).
As Freddie’s ambitions broaden, the three young men are forced to re-examine their friendship and contemplate whether their paths must diverge.
Cemetery Junction isn’t funereal as the title would suggest, but the plot ambles and Gervais and Merchant cannot resist neatly tying up every loose end in a manner which strains credibility.
It speaks volumes that their dramatic crescendo is a mother pouring a cup of tea then putting down the hot brew on a table.
Gags about Elton’s John’s sexuality, the meaning of Snork’s nickname and the bell on Noddy’s hat are recycled to the point that 94 minutes feels uncomfortably devoid of substance.
Fiennes’s centrepiece retirement party speech could have been written for David Brent in The Office, and like everything else in the film, goes on too long.
To those who remember it, the 1970s were swinging: for these characters, it barely rocks or rolls.