How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) Poster

User Reviews

Add a Review
35 ReviewsOrdered By: Helpfulness
10/10
When Advertisers Attack!
Pepper Anne19 April 2004
Warning: Spoilers
This film is literally about "How to Get A HEAD in Advertising." Once a vigorous advertising agent in his field, able to sell anything to anyone, Denis Dimbleby Bagley (Richard E. Grant) has suddenly found himself working himself to death trying to come up with a sales pitch for pimple cream. His obsession with trying to conquer those bloody boils suddenly leads to an unexpected epiphany in which Denis, sick of how everything has become so relentlessly commercialized and every single value of life turned into a money making venture, decides to give up the advertising trade and wage a war on the commercialization of life. But, if there's one thing a revolutionary cannot do freely, it's stand in the way of profiteering.

Denis faces a nemises, the one who wants him to keep on ruthlessly selling (and lying) to the world and stomp out the idealistic and possibly costly ambitions of the born again Denis Bagely. But it is no ordinary nemesis. It is a boil that grows on the his neck, an alter-ego that grew out of Denis's inability to sell everything (i.e. the pimple cream) and his newfound war against advertising. This boil comes to gain it's own personality, it's own voice, and even it's own appearance (it looks exactly like Denis). Everyone thinks that Denis is insane with his talks of a muttering boil on his neck which he engages in conversation with. The boil starts to grow a life of it's own, and even a head of it's own, seeking to stifle Denis before his epiphanies are carried to far, and people start thinking for themselves and so forth.

It is certainly an off-the-wall dark comedy, but an absolutely hilarious one with a valid point about the incessant commercialization about nearly every aspect of life, and one person who recognizes what a load of bullocks it is and tries to rid himself of it as much as he can. The ending makes for a cool finale as boil head Denis is yapping like a proud general riding his horse around unconquered territory about the possibility of amassing the earth and selling the world bit like bit. He ideas so dangerous, yet he is unstoppable and out of control. It is one hilarious movie and certainly an inventive story.
20 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Awesome premise, writing, and acting; good direction
David Sticher20 November 2000
This is a severely underrated film. Richard Grant's more-than-capable slimeball antics are put to a very worthy test in this bitter little polemic about consumerism. It's very British, and very 80's, but its message is still as universal as ever, and the execution is wickedly original, affecting, and cough-out-loud funny.

The only negative point about the movie is the occasionally lax direction towards the end, but that's just a quibble.

Overall, this is definitely very cool, and highly recommended to fans of Withnail and I, Network, and Fight Club who want something nice and bitter at the end of the day.

This would make an awesome play...
15 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Great film on modern life
funkyfry11 October 2002
Hilarious, bitter satire of adverising, humanity, and personality. Ad exec Dennis Bagley gets so hung up on boils developing a "boilbusters" ad campaign that he grows a malignant boil which takes on its own personality and eventually takes over the show. Grant is perfect in the lead role, the direction and photography are excellent, and the effects cheap but grotesque. There are so many hilarious scenes, I found myself laughing out loud through most of the film even though I saw it by myself! I love the scene where Bagley explains to his wife why the boil only talks to her when she turns away : "He's waiting for you to do it!" A classic, should be sought out by all fans of sadistic humour(especially British, i.e. League of Gentlemen, Monty Python) .
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Advertising, Dear Boy
Raegan Butcher10 June 2006
This movie is a riot. Richard E Grant gives an amazingly intense performance. His entire role seems to consist of nothing but brilliantly scabrous monologues. His acerbic take on everything around him starts at a fever pitch and then giddily topples over into outright inspired lunacy. See this film if for no other reason than to get a glimpse of him naked save for a kitchen apron, gleefully stuffing raw chickens down the toilet drain and all the while explaining, " Everything I do makes sense, everything i do has a reason!"

I prefer this style of over the top attack much more than the drier and more subtle (!) mode employed by both writer-director Bruce Robinson and Richard E. Grant in their first collaboration, WITHNAIL & I.

The heights of comic outlandishness achieved in HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING is something that is rarely achieved by any film and it is doubly commendable that everything done here ( no matter how tastelessly crazy) still never stoops to the childishly vulgar levels that most American comedies regularly splash about in like mental asylum inmates happily playing with their own feces. Yes, despite everything this film attempts ( and achieves) it still retains a sense of sophistication that shows what thuddingly awful garbage ( i am looking directly at you AUSTIN POWERS, SCARY MOVIE, etc, etc) is usually regarded as the height of comedy.
12 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Unbelievable yet realistic
ale-y15 November 2005
I was so drunk the first time I saw the film, arriving very late at night, that I could not believe such a work had ever been produced. I searched for the original title for years, and recommended it widely. Later, when I got in touch with advertising and marketing professionals, I understood that any absurdity in the movie was only apparent. Indeed, it should be exhibited to every student considering an ad career. I still do not know whether it became a cult movie or not, but it certainly is very special for me. The inner conflicts that Bagley is thrown into, excellent lines thorough the movie, inspired camera placements, a certain do-it-yourself look, these things were perfectly blended to create a very intelligent work (with the exact amount of weirdness). Simply astonishing.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
Not exactly satire, not exactly farce
michael-115123 October 2010
If you want nuance, you'll not find it here, subtlety, pah!!! No, it's laid on with a shovel as advertising executive Richard E Grant discovers advertising is more shallow than a paddling pool, and like said pool, if a toddler was unable to contain a lavatorial need, full of....well,you know what! The trouble is, although we see Grant having his breakdown, becoming obsessive and growing a boil which becomes his alter-ego, we do not see his journey, he's dubbed a success by everyone, but we do not see him succeed. We merely witness the repercussions of his desultory realisation that he's been part of the problem, rather than the solution.

The idea of the talking boil is fun, but the scriptwriter/director didn't know whether to make it surreal, knockabout or farce, in the end sticking to what he perceives as satire. I'd have liked the themes to have been developed more - together with the two differing characters within the same body. We each see thousands of commercials on television, commercialisation is everywhere, referees and umpires have ads on their sleeves, I'm expecting the police to have sponsors' names on their trousers when they finally come to get me.

This needed a little more subtlety, more comedy with the beautiful wife, who seemed discomforted by having sex with the brash alter-ego - that could have produced an amusing scene or three.

It's much better that Robert Altman's unsuccessful parody of fashion, Pret-a-Porter, but uses a sledgehammer to lance a boil.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Flawed but bloody funny
Ricky Roma14 March 2006
In Withnail & I, Bruce Robinson made one of the funniest films there is. Therefore it's always going to be hard for anything else he's made to equal his debut. However, in How to Get Ahead in Advertising he comes mighty close.

The reason why Robinson's second film fails to match Withnail & I is because at times it becomes too preachy. There are some great speeches in the film; some wonderful digs at consumerism, but occasionally it descends into uninteresting ranting. Yeah consumerism can turn us into unthinking automatons, and yeah big business is greedy, but you don't really need to point it out so blatantly. We already know this. The film works much better when illustrates the BS or when it jabs at it. It doesn't need to get on its soapbox.

One of my favourite bits in the film is when Bagley (Richard E. Grant) – a cocky advertising executive who suddenly loses his magic touch when he has to sell boil cream – is listening to a bunch of idiots talking about a newspaper article. As a person who makes a living out of lying, he's appalled that they believe what the press tells them. They then begin to argue (there's a great bit when an Irish priest insists that a woman in a vice den had peanut butter smeared across her tits; it was in the paper so it must be true) and the conversation quickly turns to the boil cream that Bagley has become obsessed with. "They're incurable, all of them. I know that and so does everybody else. Until they get one. Then the rules suddenly change." And then he has a dig at the priest. "They want to believe something works. He knows that, which is why he gets a good look-in with the dying." It's a great scene; it's funny as hell and it also has a good point to make: people consume less out of desire and more out of a desperate sort of hope, or even fear; they hope this product or that product will fill the hole in their lives. They hope it will be the answer to all their problems. And thankfully this scene refrains from the preaching that affects the latter stages. Instead it goes right for the jugular.

But my favourite scene of all is the one with the psychiatrist – Bagley has quit his job and developed a hideous boil of his own, one that talks to him and one that has a face. He's talking to the quack with a big bandage on his shoulder. He rants for a while about the way advertisers have ruined television, and then all of a sudden, after silence, the boil speaks. The way it's presented in the film, the boil (at first) has a separate voice to Bagley's. He's not portrayed as Gollum with a satanic pimple; he's not talking to himself. But at the same time you're never really sure whether you're seeing things from Bagley's perspective. He's gone totally crazy, so he may very well be the one saying all this crap. Plus the boil only speaks when Bagley's not looking the other person in the face. But what I love about the scene is the filth the boil speaks and Grant's reactions. His hysteria is hilarious (there's another magnificent bit of hysteria in the film – when the boil first 'speaks', Bagley is so shocked that he runs to the kitchen, shaking and spazzing like he's got St Vitus' dance. Grant is amazing at working himself up into a lather). And then the boil asks Bagley to tell the shrink about his grandfather. "My grandfather was caught molesting a wallaby in a private zoo in 1919." "A wallaby?" "It may have been a kangaroo. I'm not sure." "You mean sexually?" "I suppose so. He had his hand in its pouch." I haven't heard dialogue that funny in a long time.

I also love the scene when Bagley is admitted to hospital to have the boil lanced. By now he's completely raving. He's going on and on about the evils of consumerism. So then the boil says, "You commies don't half talk a lot of s***." Magnificent! It's the sort of argument a Daily Mail reader would give. Criticise capitalism and you must be a goddamned Red. However, I can see where the boil is coming from. There are certainly times when Robinson is too militant. Like I said before, he really doesn't need to stand so high on his soapbox. But at the same time the film makes some excellent points. It's just that the film works better when it does it through comedy rather than rhetoric.

Another great scene, one that takes a poke at society's hypocrisy, is when Bagley argues with a feminist who thinks men should bleed. "And I think you're a vegan who eats meat in secret. You see, she doesn't deny it. She's a vegan who eats meat in secret." "I do not eat meat!" "But you'll eat fish, you'll eat fish until the cows come home." "Fish is allowed!" Of course, this enrages Bagley.

But although hypocritical lefties get a kicking too, the film, early on, raises an interesting point. If you're anti-consumerism, how do you spread your message without advertising? It's a bit of a kick in the teeth, that.

However, Robinson is smart enough to know that consumerism is here to stay. The film doesn't end with any hope. All we can look forward to is more advertising, more spending and more products. The world is one magnificent shop, indeed.
11 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
The Vidiot Reviews...
capone66624 August 2011
How to Get Ahead in Advertising

The best way to get ahead in advertising is to know the devil.

Unfortunately, since the frazzled ad man in this comedy isn't acquitted with Lucifer, he will have to get a head literally.

With a growing concern over the ethical nature of his profession, ad executive Bagley (Richard E. Grant) becomes mentally unhinged.

While struggling to come up with a slogan for a zit cream, his mania is compounded by the appearance of a pustule on his shoulder that has begun to speak to him.

In addition to the power of verbalization, over time, the abnormal abscess develops a mouth, eyes and a face, which is strikingly similar to his own, save for the moustache.

A stimulating and surreal British satire, How To Get Ahead in Advertising is a paradigm of the psychological mindset needed to survive in marketing.

Furthermore, having two heads means there's always someone to make-out with. (Green Light)
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Deep, dark truthful mirror
outsider-220 January 2003
Its a brave, scathingly funny film that might be an acquired taste. This one definitely needs a memorable quotes section!! For a film made so long ago, its quite an accurate and eerie depiction of what the PR industry has mutated into...
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Flawless comedy, sadly underrated.
emmellpowell7 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I imagine the handful of other people who have watched this film were largely, like myself, drawn to it by the desire for something - anything - that could possibly be as good as Withnail and I.

This is BETTER.

The premise is quite simple. Richard. E Grant plays a disenchanted, unenchanting advertiser, who is not only struggling with his social life, but also with his latest pitch - a new cream to cure boils. After spending a weekend frying his brain over it, he has an epiphany (or a breakdown) and decides that he has finished with advertisement. He shows this by removing every object 'corrupted,' by the industry. Chickens are thawed in the toilet, and televisions drowned in the bath.

If any other writer worked with this plot, the film would be much less interesting. We would see the protagonist discovering what really matters. Love. Giving money to the poor. He would decide to go back to advertising - but this time, with integrity. The last scene would have him doing an advertisement for a charity, before stepping into the loving arms of his wife, Julia.

Of course, it's not any other writer. It's Bruce Robinson. This means insanity. This means genius. This means...talking boils? Yes, that's right. A talking boil. This character - played by Bruce Robinson - hangs about on Richard. E Grant's neck, slowly destroying his life. No one else could lend so tragic an edge to this farcical comedy. Richard E Grant does another effortlessly beautiful turn as the supplanted husband, forced into submission by the malignant pustule controlling his life.

I won't spoil the ending for you - but you must see this film. Like Withnail and I, it only has a couple of large characters. The setting is small and the plot strange. Not an awful lot happens, but you will feel every beautiful insult or idiom sinking into your brain, ready to be used on the next person who cheeses you off.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
The Man From "Boil Busters" Pays The Price Of Creativity
Dalbert Pringle2 August 2014
Just like having dandruff, B.O., and/or bad breath, having boils (especially one that has a bad attitude and can talk) is certainly no laughing matter, or is it?

It would be an understatement to say that having a lippy, ego-centric carbuncle can make one extremely unpopular at any social function.

So you can well-imagine the unpleasant predicament advertising whizz-kid, Dennis Bagley, found himself in when, sure enough, he discovered a sizable, jabbering boil growing out of his shoulder, at the base of his neck.

For the most part, I found 'How To Get Ahead In Advertising' to be quite a novel and entertaining look at the ill-effects of job-related stress, paranoia, and split-personality disorder.

Offensive, insulting, quirky, & bizarre - Actor Richard Grant (and all of his agitated and haywire ranting & raving) delivered a hyperactive, adrenaline-rush performance as Dennis Bagley, the hilariously irritating ass from "Boil Busters".

Even though this 1989, British comedy wouldn't suit everyone's tastes, it still does contain enough genuinely comical moments to make it worth at least one honest viewing.

Yes. This film definitely hit its fair share of bona-fide bum-notes, but, generally speaking, its cynical and sneering look at the advertising business was quite a frank, and, yes, even refreshing one, at times.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
A Modern Spin on an Old Idea
lt-gt14 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This film is destined to become a cult favorite thanks to its edgy delivery and clever use of Orwell's plot structure. The other reviews seem to not mention that understanding the true depth of this movie relies on being familiar with 1984 and its themes. In a way this movie IS the true 1984 since it tackles the dishonesty in consumerism which we are only now coming to grips with.

If being labeled "Orwellian" signifies a Totalitarian idea, than this movie deserves credit for whatever term future-people designate for a consumerist idea.

Following 1984 point-to-point, we are introduced to our protagonist as a true believer (and perpetrator), follow him through his discovery and internal dilemma, and then the eventual succumbing to the culture of the times (however unwillingly).

"How to Get Ahead in Advertising" is truly a thoughtful and clever piece, however wordy and hard to follow at times; appreciating it really does depend on how aware the viewer is of what is going on, and what it is trying to say about Consumerism's purpose and origins.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
superb as entertainment and as social satire
ml74720 June 2004
Just to illustrate Black_Rider's depth of critical thought (or lack thereof), I'd like to point out that there are more trees in the U.S. now than there were in colonial times because the country is about 10 times as large now (thanks to native genocide and the unprovoked invasion of Mexico, among other things). That's one essential point of How to Get Ahead in Advertising: capitalism isn't about products, it's about selling. The drive for profit favors high-risk, short-term oriented business strategies. Businesses can't afford to think in the long term, or a more irresponsible competitor will undercut them. Businesses centered around rapidly shrinking natural resources such as the paper, lumber, fishing and oil industries are going to keep selling their products as fast as they can until they become so rare (i.e. depleted) that there's no longer a market for them. Then they'll either go belly up or move on to a more profitable market. But the market on a whole is unconcerned with matters like preserving enough forests to allow us to keep breathing, its only directive is to continue the exponential acceleration of its growth. As the movie points out, this ever-increasing growth of industry has to be supported by increased consumption, which means the all-pervasive coercion of advertising doing its damnedest to convince us we need things we don't to solve problems we didn't know we had.

This movie is a favorite, both for the pure entertainment of a captivating fantasy and the razor-sharp screeds against commodity culture. It's not simple-minded leftist sloganeering; although it's clearly hyperbolic, the underlying critique is, in my opinion, quite sophisticated. Although I love Withnail and I, I'd have to say I get more out of this film.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Brilliant!
smarty-116 May 1999
I cannot believe that imdb does not have any "memorable quotes" for this film! Maybe that is because the entire script is one memorable quote after another. A deliciously evil and intelligent skewering of our consumerist society. Richard E. Grant is phenomenal as always.
3 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
If your head comes away from your neck ...It's over
cosmorados26 June 2008
Denis Bagley is a hot-shot advertiser who can do no wrong. he knows his client as well as he knows his own face, he can tell anybody who stars at the goggle box what to do, what to think and what to buy? His words are weapons of the consumer age and he will sell anything to anyone. Money is his to have and the general public buys what he tells them, giving him the power of a God. However, as he strikes a bit of a problem over pimple cream he starts to lose his edge, he is cnfronted by the realisation that maybe he is not the person he thinks he is, or wants to be, as he listens to a conversation on a train over a story written by the other people who tell everyone what to do, the popular press, he bursts the bubble of those discussing the story by pointing out that a bag of cannabis that could have contained cocaine, could also have contained a pork pie.

"It's the use of the word "Could"" Denis exclaims, as he realises that perhaps, the power that he has is being misused. As he decides to rid himself of advertising and turn a new leaf. However as he starts to develop a painful boil on his neck he starts to have anxiety pains over this turn of direction, resulting in his boil growing a face and speaking to him.

What happens from this point is a tour-de-force satire on the modern world that was arguably twenty years before its time as the commercial markets freedom has led to our current crop of problems, rather than to their solutions. Richard E Grent is amazing as the Ad Exec with an attack of conscience that takes on alarming results, with able support from Rachel Ward and Richard Wilson. The direction is good, but it is the razor sharp script that gets all the plaudits by challenging our perception of the real world as much as the Matrix, but with the certain knowledge that the questions raised in this film, we can address as the credits come up.

Know thyself.
2 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
6/10
In which Richard E. Grant burns up the screen
Leofwine_draca26 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
HOW TO GET AHEAD IN ADVERTISING feels like a natural follow-up to WITHNAIL & I for director Bruce Robinson. It's another cult, quirky, idiosyncratic story, even more bizarre than the cult classic which preceded it. Richard E. Grant gives perhaps the most manic performance of his career as an advertising executive who succumbs to the pressure of the job and begins to imagine that a living, conscious boil is growing out of his shoulder. It's a bizarre and gruesome premise for sure, but one which feels remarkably grounded given Grant's warts-and-all performance. He dominates every screen in what is a very difficult part to play and he succeeds admirably. The rest of the film is a mix of quick-fire monologues, plenty of satire aimed at advertising and consumerism, and well-judged supporting performances.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
British dark satire
SnoopyStyle7 May 2017
Denis Dimbleby Bagley (Richard E. Grant) is an amoral British ad executive. He's willing to sell anything to anyone. His next product pimple cream makes him obsessed with boils. His wife Julia Bagley (Rachel Ward) is concerned. He starts breaking down and growing a boil on his left shoulder. He's in the hospital to have it removed when it starts growing into a new head. His real head is lanced and the boil takes over his life as the new head.

Bruce Robinson's previous directing/writing effort 'Withnail and I' is a British indie darling. Richard E. Grant returns with brilliant effect. It is a dark rant on the ills of consumerism and a little obvious. It would be great to have more plot rather than a diatribe. This would have been a great Twilight Zone episode. A story is needed around the zit cream. Otherwise, it's a good surreal effective satire.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Advertising exec gets a conscious...leading to challenges on the job.
greengene659 May 2006
This brilliant attack on commodification and the misuse of language to cajole consumerism is a must see. I don't like to give anything away so suffice to say that Grant is excellent as the near-schizophrenic hero (anti-hero) who's copy writer's block leads to his confronting the hegemony he operates within. The film mocks the abuse of semiotics in the media; one particularly hilarious scene has Grant battling his fellow-commuters over a newspaper story designed, per Grant's character, Bagley, to lead readers to directed conclusions. In the exchange about a heroin arrest reported in the paper, police allege that a bag containing heroin "may" have also contained marijuana. Bagley burst out with, "It may have contained a f***ing pork pie!" Hilarity ensues, but not devoid of a moral lesson...you may find the rendering of William Blake's "Jerusalem" at the film's conclusion particularly ironically amusing.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Do You Believe Everything You Hear, See or Read?
monartistik4 October 2003
This is film is definitely a black comedy, which some may find rather bizarre. It is based on an allegory: Our conscience. Richard E. Grant was fab!! His work in this film, is not to be missed. The entire cast was fantastik, including the beautiful and talented Rachel Ward, Jacqueline Tong, Pauline Melville & I believe that was Susan Woolridge! They were all sublime!

Initially you may feel that the acting is a bit forced, or quirky, but it's supposed to be. If you don't understand it, don't give up, try to listen between the lines. The message relates to the advertising world & the media, which in turn, try to control the minds of the consumer. It's the advertisers who pay the ad agencies, media & newspapers to advertise. What's scary is that there are individuals who believe just about everything they see, read, or hear. Why? I don't know. Maybe you'll get it after seeing the film & start listening to yourselves. We loved it!
2 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Masterpiece
Greg Fox (imdb-12257)3 February 2006
Absolutely stunning tour de force for Richard E Grant, deeply moving, hilarious, superb script and impressive performances from all concerned.

Bagley's a complicated character : it's not fair to say that he was ever UNaware of what he was doing in advertising...... but certainly we catch him at a crossroads: he's decided that enough is enough and he simply can't carry on being the bad guy...... but times change again before it's too late, except his brief episode of goodness is enough to convince his wife that he's not worth living with........

tragic, beautiful, complex, with a great and moving film-score based in parts on Saint-Saens' organ symphony......
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Somehow lost it's way.
ortem13 April 2002
Re-used a few withnail jokes... Funny at first, and then got rather serious in a way and ended abruptly and left rather too much unfinished.

Still worth owning. Richard E Grants performance is superb.
1 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Some very funny moments but mostly a messy failure
bob the moo4 June 2007
Denis Dimbleby Bagley is a slick young advertising executive who is on his way up. However with his latest project he is struggling to come up with a way of selling a new pimple cream. The pressure on him to meet a deadline when he has creative block is so great that he develops a boil on his shoulder. His wife is concerned as he is aggressive and a bit rude at first but, when the boil begins talking to him and developing features, Bagley goes completely over the edge into insanity.

In theory this is supposed to be a satire on commercialism but to be honest it is a deeply flawed one. At times it produces some wonderful lines (some of them up there with Withnail) and good ideas but it is mostly a messy affair as it lacks a structure and narrative flow. The boil idea distracts from the main thrust of the splitting personality of Bagley; it is an interesting device but it doesn't really work and the effects are not really up to the job of delivering the second head idea. This part is where the film is weak, and it is the majority of the time. Individual speeches and scenes are good but generally the whole thing is a mess.

Fortunately for Campbell, he has brought Grant with him for this film and he is on great form. Of course in some scenes there is little he can do, but give him great dialogue and let him loose and he's great. If the film has anything worth seeing it for then it is undoubtedly Grant delivering some wonderful speeches and lines. The rest of the cast is a distant, distant second with nobody really marking themselves out for any praise. This is not because they are no good but just because Grant is in full flow and given all the good lines.

Overall then, despite having some very good moments and very funny lines, this mess is mostly a failed satire that doesn't hang together or flow at all.
1 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Socialist tripe agenda movie #5,467
movieman_kev10 May 2004
Richard E. Grant is Dennis Bagley, an advertising executive who goes mad when he finds a boil growing on his neck that begins to talk to him. Basically a socialist manifesto that doesn't beat you upside the head with propaganda... UNTIL the last half hour or so. (As opposed to PURE propaganda such as "John Q", or to a lesser extant, "American Beauty") But when it DOES, boy does it ever. At one point in the film a taped Denis Bagley actually equates the Holocaust with eating meat. PETA would LOVE this film, just for that insane tripe on it's own. The sad thing is before all this socialistic BS, it actually was an OK film. This gets a passing grade, if just barely. However it IS a million times better then another "growing appendix" movie, "The Dark Backwards" (which is out and out HORRID!)

My Grade: D
1 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
Review: How to Get Ahead in Advertising
bloodymonday21 May 2008
What made good satire film? You might not have an idea. But everybody knows when they see a good one. Good satire film must succeed in good storytelling while making their statement. But it rarely to see a film that proudly calls themselves as a good one. As it might be a great chance that they couldn't find a right ingredient and then transformed into some kind of silly spoof or complete disaster (i.e. American Dreamz, Prêt-à-Porter, and The Bonfire of the Vanities). Anyway, there's an exception in some cases. This is a case that they don't particularly care much about story at all, and somehow it's still very intriguing to see. "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" is full-on sermonizing film that can talk you to the death. But the point that they wanted to make is so clear even you can't possibly not to appreciate by it.

Here is the best way to put social-commentary into the film. You build story around the massage that you want to convey, and then making it as ridiculous as possible. Dennis (Richard E. Grant) is an advertising agent and a career obsessive young man who can't find his way in the new pimple cream campaign. His ongoing stress is causing him a nervous breakdown as he rejects everybody around him including his wife, Julia (Rachel Ward), his boss, John Bristol (Richard Wilson). And his rejection finally causes him a boil that constantly growing on his shoulder. Not soon after, it starts talking to him and developing into another head. Eventually, it starts to take control his entire body.

What's wrong about Consumerism? Or Materialism? They may not give you the best idea about it. But at least they are absolutely right about what we have become or going to be. Personally, I think the film comes ahead of its time. We're talking about technology (i.e. Car, TV, Internet and everything) that plays a significant role in your everyday life. People can't possibly live without it. And we're constantly reminded by one thing called "an advertising". They will make you realize what you have missed in your life. But didn't the customer know that it doesn't really give a s**t about what your basic needs or what you have missed. All they care is selling whatever they have in the store.

As it goes along, the film constantly transformed itself from dark comedy into pure madness. If we're not judging a movie on a social-commentary point-of-view (which is the main point of this project), but instead, focus on character study, it's still a very good film. Because I think it also can be a battle between consciences Dennis and his devil inside. We saw that he kept this balance quite well at the beginning. But soon after his breakdown, he began to reject his job and all consumerism perspective in everyday life. And because of that, his devil inside, who takes a lead role in Dennis's life until now, tried to resist and began to reclaim the body. In the end, it really doesn't matter that who won. But all the remaining is a pure demonic living human.

All this, it couldn't be possible succeed if the actor who plays Dennis wasn't Richard E. Grant (whom, I think is awfully underrated actor working today). It's a daring and pretty intense role. With all the monologues (including one of the best and magnificent epilogue in movie history) and insane things he had to do, he nailed it and did it so powerful that we can't take our eyes off him. It's like, the director; Bruce Robinson took out his soul and his brain and put it in this amazing actor.

I have yet to see Withnail & I (1987) which is the first collaboration between Bruce Robinson and Richard E. Grant. But if this film is an only film that Bruce and Richard did together, I won't be complaining about it. "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" is an honest film. It totally believes what it wanted to say. It might sound absolutely ridiculous sometime. But many times it perfectly precise. Tell me, don't you agree with our protagonist that "The world is one magnificent friggin' shop, and if it hasn't got a price tag, it isn't worth having"?

BloodyMonday Rating: 3/4
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
If it hasn't got a price tag, it isn't worth having…How to Get Ahead in Advertising
jaredmobarak10 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It is fascinating that after viewing How to Get Ahead in Advertising I began to think of similarities to Terry Gilliam's adaptation to Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Both are very much comedies, yet in a more cerebral, dialogue driven way than just a vehicle for cheap laughs. These movies are funny in a way that makes the audience think and see the satire that is laid out before them. The world we live in is crazy and these tales subvert the insanity in order to comment on it. Originally I was expecting a British comedy of dry humor and good old-fashioned cheekiness and instead was surprised to find a dialogue heavy drama made funny by the fantastic performance from lead Richard E. Grant. Director Bruce Robinson has only directed three films in his career and, along with Withnail and I, has twice been given the Criterion Collection treatment. I will definitely be checking that film out post haste as I finally have reason to other than the strict curiosity struck by the drawings of Ralph Steadman, who coincidentally drew for Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing included. To make the small world seem even smaller, it appears Robinson has become attached to direct that film's sequel, The Rum Diary. While I love Gilliam, I am excited by the prospects of Robinson's like-mindedness combining with the genius that was Thompson's writing to weave a new masterpiece around Johnny Depp's return performance. I will however hope for an appearance from Grant as he is underused in cinema yet proves here he can handle a role that most definitely will be included in a Thompson story.

Grant is an ad-exec at the top of his game. He is the go-to-guy for all sales pitches and at the moment is on the job to sell pimple cream. It ends up that he has no clue how to come up with an idea to end boils. The weight of the stress and anxiety soon becomes too much, and not only does a boil form on his shoulder, but it also begins to speak to him. The cutthroat panache he has used to build his career becomes fractured with a new sense of being and enlightenment to the fact that advertising, as an occupation, is a way of population control. Grant becomes aware that people like him have created a "big brother" type regulating that which the public buys and very well needs to survive. This newfound conscious soon finds itself berated and overtaken by the driven mentality displaced to the boil. All the ferocity he once held in check to be successful has become a split personality to be wholly unleashed on the world.

The duality of character is left ambiguous throughout the film, as you never truly know whether the boil is alive or if both personalities come from an irrational mind. Grant plays the moments with perfect comic timing, oftentimes covering his mouth when the boil talks even though the voice is different than his own. The filmmakers do a great job of keeping the audience guessing, especially when early on we see him talking into a camera with the boil speaking while his mouth remains closed. We would then believe that the voice is real and separate from his mind until later on when his wife views the film. Grant's character in real life speaks the lines the boil would have on the tape, thus subverting whether the voice was real at all. Is he drowning out the boil or was the boil never speaking and only silence would have been heard had he not spoken in the present? All instances of philosophical inquiry into the mind control advertisers have over the general public are deftly handled and serious in tone. It is this give and take between the cerebral and the insane that makes the film work. Without Grant's total encompassing of his role, How to Get Ahead in Advertising would ultimately fail and become a pretentious mess of ill-conceived scope. His performance grounds the insight given into some realm of reality and helps allow the over-stylized approach work by making fun of its own pretentiousness.
0 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews