Award-winning actor/comedian Ricky Gervais' first-ever HBO stand-up special features his unique takes on such disparate issues as fund-raising, autism, fame, nursery rhymes, Nazis, moronic friends, obesity and more.
Bertram Pincus is a man whose people skills leave much to be desired. When Pincus dies unexpectedly, but is miraculously revived after seven minutes, he wakes up to discover that he now has the annoying ability to see ghosts.
It's 1973 in Cemetery Junction, a Reading suburb. Three working class lads, best friends, are coming of age. Freddie wants to rise above his station, taking a job selling life insurance, wearing a suit and tie. Snork works at the railway station and wants a girlfriend some day. Bruce talks of leaving but seems on track to work at a factory, drink and fight, and become like his dad, in front of the telly with beer on hand; and he's trying the patience of the police officer who gets him out of jams. Freddie's job leads the lads toward a few small changes. He runs across a childhood friend, Julie, his boss's daughter who's engaged to the firm's top seller. Can the lads break out? Written by
The original title was "The Men at the Pru", an advertising slogan for the Prudential insurance company. During the writing of the film, the Prudential allowed Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to use their archives for research. However, after reading the finished script, the company decided it didn't like how it was being portrayed and refused to allow the usage of their name. The new title comes from an actual area in the town of Reading, where the film takes place. See more »
During the live band scene a powered speaker appears on stage
(then disappears). It's a Mackie SRM450. These weren't invented until the 1990s. See more »
Frederick Taylor. Freddie Taylor. Welcome to Vigilant Life Assurance. I see you grew up in Cemetery Junction. Went to Stone Meade, the worst school in the south of England.
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I grew up in England and left school to start work in the 70s. The boring drudgery of it all and the sense of feeling trapped does come across in this film, but the fairly middle-class view of things means the traps here are all pretty comfortable. In reality, life in Britain then was much grittier, violent, and hopeless for many people, and some of this feeling comes through in the characters of Bruce and his father, but life was also much funnier than this too. There is not much fun in this film, despite the attempts to raise a laugh through the character of Snork, who in reality would not have been making public announcements at a railway station - hierarchy at work was very much based on age and he would likely have been making the tea and sweeping up.
This was a time of glam rock, soon to be followed by punk rock. It was also the hey-day of Monty Python, but any silliness in this film is puerile rather than inventive and the exploits of the three youngsters incredibly tame. People's lives may have felt a bit dead but they were not all brain dead as well. Things bode well at the start with Roxy Music on the soundtrack, but the music seems divorced from the story itself, and the gulf between them just gets wider and wider.
It is set in some fictitious version of Reading (which is close to London) and real youngsters back then were hopping on trains and going "to the Smoke" every weekend, frequently further afield (and not just waiting until the end of the film to do so). Individuality was alive and well, not yet stamped out of the population and made a crime. The problem with this movie version of Reading is that it looks nothing like the town itself, and more of a chocolate box rendition of middle England. Anyone wanting a real flavour of how Reading might have been in the 1970s could take a look at "My Beautiful Laundrette", a film set in South London (admittedly a decade later) but not a million miles away. The real Bruce would more likely have been found skulking under a similar set of railway arches, and not hanging around with a fat kid and a colourless nerd in a suit.
This is a film devoid of any authentic characters, has no vibrancy and represents its subject in such a mundane way that I didn't feel any nostalgia for a time and place I knew well (except perhaps for the train at the end that still has separate compartments and handles on the doors). If Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant were going to suck the life out of an era and just go for the feeling of hopelessness, of being destined for the scrapheap and taking that very short step towards it, they could have made this film more claustrophobic, hopeless and real than it is, but still have injected some great laughs too.
I had no idea what this film was about before watching, so had no preconceptions approaching it. Ricky Gervais is witty and astute enough to bring something like this to life, particularly as it was his era too - a pity it didn't happen. It seems to have been made to appeal to the American market and anyone who wasn't actually living through these times, but it really could have been so much better.
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