David Brent: Life On The Road

Year: 2016
Director: Ricky Gervais
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jo Hartley, Doc Brown, Tom Bennett
Written by Tom Sheffield

As soon as Ricky Gervais announced he would be donning a goatee and reprising his role as David Brent on the big screen, he’d already sealed the sale of my cinema ticket. I’m a big fan of Gervais, his humour and his TV work, especially  ‘The Office’ which is one of my favourite british sitcoms, despite how much my whole body would cringe whenever David Brent tried to crack a joke.

Gervais (along with Stephen Merchant) wrote,  starred in and directed the mockumentary TV series ‘The Office’ which focussed on everyday office life at a paper company named Wernham Hogg in Slough. The manager of this branch was David Brent (played by Gervais), a man who describes himself as a friend first, and a boss second, probably an entertainer third”, and the documentary captured the antics of Brent and his colleagues over the course of two years. Unfortunately ‘The Office’ only ran for two series here in the UK and there was only 14 episodes in total, but due to its popularity some countries created their own version, the most popular coming from the USA, starring Steve Carrell, but other countries that have seen success in their versions include Germany, France, Chile, Israel and Sweden.

‘Life On The Road’ sees a documentary crew catch up with David Brent 13 years after the cameras were turned off at Wernham Hogg. Brent is now a cleaning and sanitary product sales rep at Lavichem, but his dream of being a rockstar is far from dead. Brent decides it’s time to finally get his band, Foregone Conclusion, on the road and gigging, in the hope they get spotted and secure themselves a record deal. The majority of the film focuses on the band’s two week tour around Berkshire, and we witness the highs and lows (mainly lows) of this small Brent-funded tour, but we also get a moving insight into what David Brent has been up to in the last 13 years and the personal struggles he’s faced, but mockingly shrugs off in front of the camera. Brent may try to find humour in the negativity he faces during the film, but you will find yourself feeling sorry for him and you begin to see the real Brent hidden behind the bad jokes and that high-pitched nervous laugh that you often find yourself laughing at.

Shot in the classic mockumentary style we are familiar, Gervais decided to maintain this style of filming for the big screen, which I’m happy about as I can’t imagine it being filmed any other way. The documentary team interview Brent’s colleagues and band-mates, who give their honest opinions of him and of course we get the classic Brent camera stare throughout the film, which is always a reminder that he is fully aware of the cameras and a lot of what he does or says is for their benefit.

A big part of this film is obviously the music, so Gervais wrote songs especially for the film and has released an album full of songs “written by David Brent”.  We see a number of these songs being performed by Foregone Conclusion on their tour, and to give you a quick insight into the nature of these songs, the names of some of them on the album include Please Don’t Make Fun of the Disabled, Native American, Lady Gypsy and Slough. As you probably could have guessed, the songs are not to be taken seriously in the slightest, and are simply David Brent’s attempts to bring important issues to his audience’s attention, so you can imagine how cringeworthy the lyrics actually are. I have to commend Gervais on how well these songs are written though, despite them being one big piss-take, the music and lyrics are genius and perfect for the film.

After Gervais’ attempts to win movie audiences over with films such as ‘The Invention of Lying’ and the Netflix original film ‘Special Correspondents’ – which both received very mixed reviews – some people were sceptical of Brent’s return, and felt it might have been less of a risk to just make ‘Life On The Road’ a television special, as that seems to be where Gervais shines brightest. However, I think ‘Life On The Road’ has been perfectly written and directed for the big screen and will likely become some people’s favourite Gervais film work.

If you are a fan of the original UK version of ‘The Office’, or just a Ricky Gervais fan, I definitely recommend going to watch ‘Life On The Road’. Brent is as hilarious and cringeworthy as ever, and with the addition of the music he writes and performs, this big screen outing is a welcome return and, if it’s the last we see of him, a fitting goodbye. The David Brent we know and begrudgingly love is back on form and as awkward as ever, but we wouldn’t have him any other way!

Tom’s rating: 8.8 out of 10
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