"On the road is where I really come alive"
Years after the popular documentary series about the paper merchants at Wernham Hogg, a camera crew catch up with former boss David Brent (Ricky Gervais) who is now working as a sales rep and planning a two week countrywide tour with his band “Foregone Conclusion”.
It’s been over 10 years since David Brent last graced our screens in the widely acclaimed and beloved TV series “The Office”. In that time there is one distinct thing that I have noticed with the fans that watched the show, it’s that they forgot how horrible the Brent character really was. It’s not that he is mean spirited, far from it in fact, but it’s that he so desperately wants to be liked by everybody around him that it becomes almost unbearable to watch. It’s that unbearable awkwardness that made “The Office” such a fun and unique viewing experience and one that is a welcome return in “Life on the Road”.
With this film Gervais attempts to ground the exaggerated nature of Brent, bringing him down to a more relatable level which in turn helps to construct a character that, while still frustrating, audiences will find themselves feeling more sympathetic towards. This is the key with the overall mood and tone of the film. It isn’t trying to hit the high notes of comedy that “The Office” once did, and why bother trying? The film is instead a well construct character piece that takes its time exploring the nature of one man, his fractured psyche and the aftermath of a brief shot at “fame”.
What Gervais has done by exploring this extension of his incredibly well known character is something that should be commended. Instead of dishing out the same old jokes he genuinely cares about Brent and wishes to explore the man as a human being, not just a walking punchline. A strong supporting cast, who play their parts with more venom than the original co-stars, only helps to emphasize this and heighten the pathos as Brent watches his dreams slowly begin to crumble around him.
I realize what I’m saying may sound rather bleak, but rest assured there are some great laughs to be had. Gervais is as strong as ever with his portrayal of the lowly sales rep and you can’t help but laugh through gritted teeth at the embarrassing and ridiculous situations he finds himself in. The ego and hubris on display by Brent is something to both admire and laugh hysterically at.
At its core “Life on the Road” is a film about acceptance; acceptance by your peers, acceptance of your limitations and acceptance of your own life. It brilliantly weaves striking and poignant character development with ridiculous and over the top comedy culminating in a film that is both genuine and heart warming (even if Brent does make you squirm and cringe a bit).
7.5 out of 10.
Reviewed by Chris Swan