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Archive for April 22nd, 2010

Review: Cemetery Junction

Elton John’s Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting Is played overt the opening titles of Cemetery Junction, the same song was used at the same point of Fandango twenty-five years earlier. This is most likely a coincidence rather than homage but an interesting coincidence because Cemetery Junction is actually firmly a part of the same sub genre of movies as fandango. This is most unlike a British movie, this is an American movie with an English setting.

Set in 1970’s Reading three young friends have grown up together. Now in their early twenties (I assume from the age of the actors) they spend their evenings drinking and getting into trouble in the towns local pubs and clubs. Things start to change when Freddie (Christian Cooke) starts a new job selling insurance door-to-door whilst Bruce (Tom Hughes) works in the same factory as Freddie’s dad (Ricky Gervais) but has dreams of breaking away and Snork (Jack Doolan) is just Snock, socially awkward and completely lacking ambition. Freddie aspires to be like his yuppie (although the term hadn‘t been coined at the time) mentor Mike (Matthew Goode) and his boss (Ralph Fiennes) but things don’t start well when he shows little aptitude for his new job. Then he meats his childhood sweetheart, Julie (Felicity Jones) who he hasn’t seen for ten years, the only problem she is Mike’s fiancée and the bosses daughter.

Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant the first thing I have to make clear this isn’t a comedy, although it has some great comic moments it is very much a coming of age drama. As I alluded to above the movie owes far more to American classics like Diner, American Graffiti and Fandango than to anything British. The movie shares themes with all three movies mentioned above relating to the transition from teenage years to adulthood and the effect it has on friendships and relationships as people find their own direction in life. And like those movies it is set in a previous generation, a generation the filmmakers know or even grew up in.

The film takes the odd wrong turn, mainly with regard to storylines that are built up then forgotten but it also has some really good things too. The 70’s setting to the movie is essential to the movie and it does play on stereotypes of the era mainly for comic effect but to its credit it doesn’t dwell to much on the setting making it totally immersive. For all the young talent on display, and they are pretty good but the really scene stealing performances come from Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson as his downtrodden wife. Ricky Gervais’ character doesn’t really work, loosely based o his own farther he would offer great comic relief in a more dower story but this movie doesn’t need it, he is also always Ricky Gervais/David Brent breaking the momentum of the movie. The music is also a high point of the movie, not going over the top with too many songs just a well thought out selection, the biggest musical moment is probably All the Young Dudes, they even go for the David Bowie version not the more famous Mott the Hoople one. Incredibly (and rarely) we even get Zeplin with Rain Song used at the end and the Slade moment is just brilliant.

But how does it work as a whole? I have never been able to make my mind up about Ricky Gervais. The office (UK version) was a brilliant masterpiece that he has never surpassed and while Extras had its moments it fell flat more than often than it hit the heights. As a stand up comedian he is very average and not always funny and what little I have seen of him in movies has been crap at best. But I am pleased to report that I really enjoyed Cemetery Junction and will be really interested to see how it id received in America where films like this have a greater pedigree. And why the Bruce Springsteen lyrics? Whist I’m not beyond quoting song lyrics for no good reason (especially Springsteen lyrics) there is a good reason this time. Ricky Gervais has stated a couple of times the script is loosely based on or at least inspired by the lyrics to Thunder Road, how cool is that!

Four Stars out of Five

 

 

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