In 1985, against the backdrop of Thatcherism, Brian Jackson enrolls in the University of Bristol, a scholarship boy from seaside Essex with a love of knowledge for its own sake and a childhood spent watching "University Challenge," a college quiz show. At Bristol he tries out for the Challenge team and falls under the spell of Alice, a lovely blond with an extensive sexual past. He's smitten, and he carelessly manages to hurt the feelings of Rebecca Epstein, a friend whose politics and wit he admires. The Challenge finale is coming up; maybe Brian can redeem himself and still avoid being a prat. Written by
The film is set in late 1985/early 1986, but after the students argue in the car they turn on the radio and hear "Wonderful Life" by Black - which was not released until late in the summer of 1987. See more »
Very slight film but does have a certain amount of good humour and charm
I can vaguely remember this film getting a roundly solid review from Empire Magazine several years ago before then disappearing never to be seen again in a UK cinema release that was somewhat less than banner. I carried on with my life regardless, move house several times, had a few relationships and then suddenly Starter for Ten popped back up on terrestrial TV this Christmas just gone. I recorded it as I was out but then it sat on my HD for several months before I decided to watch it. Why do I tell you so much of this detail? Well, because it turns out that my approach to the film was more or less what it deserved.
Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but what I mean is that this film is certainly not one that is particularly memorable or worth writing home about (I appreciate the irony in me writing that phrase). It isn't bad though because it does have a certain comic charm and ambling curiosity to the story that held my attention. I didn't find myself caring too much about the plot or the characters but I was amused enough to be carried along with it. Amused is the right word though because the film isn't really all that funny in terms of pure laugh-out-loud moments and this, along with not really caring for the characters does contribute to the feeling of not really watching something that is anything other than a bit of light entertainment.
In retrospect, the film will gain from the comparatively rapid rise to fame of McAvoy (who now has the mark of a "star" because he has done the lead in a terrible action movie). He is frighteningly young here but he does manage to deliver a geeky character while also keeping him appealing and engaging. Both Eve and Hall are attractive and likable in their parts; neither has a lot of depth due to the material but they pitch their performances right for the tone of the film. Of no consequence to the enjoyment of the film for most, the casting but lack of use of Elaine Tan was a shame because she is not only stunning but also very, very good at being light and gorgeous (ref 420 Seconds of Love) as was required by the film and perhaps this may have made the film more engaging by having Brian's other relationship also be within the team. Supporting turns from Cumberbatch, Corden, Cooper, Dance etc vary with the material but are mostly good enough for this.
Starter for 10 is aptly named because it is very much a starter rather than a main course (I apologise for the lameness of that sentence but I'll leave it in since I am an amateur). It is light and enjoyable to a certain extent but it is neither funny enough nor engaging enough to really satisfy.
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