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Went to the Gala screening of Huge at the Edinburgh International Film
Festival. The film itself started an hour after scheduled due to the
fashionable late arrivals of the stars and an introduction by a stand
up comedian. Little did we know that we were getting our comedy upfront
before being subjected to 80 minutes of lack luster "comedy" (believe
me - I could make these quotation marks big enough).
I can only assume Ben Miller had a great idea for a film, got a bunch of famous UK comedy legends interested in making cameo appearances, amassed the necessary funding and then... realised there wasn't actually a film in his idea. The film fails to satisfy throughout, with the potential highs never seen and the comedians in focus never actually performing on-screen.
Is satisfaction a requirement for good comedy? Of course not, but the potential for dark comedy is never realised nor explored, with Ben Miller instead opting for one-series-on-BBC-Three-aired-at-1am-on-a-Tuesday-night level of comedy.
If this wins the Gala prize at the EIFF, I'm moving to Glasgow!
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Warren (Johnny Harris) is an aspiring stand up comedian who has a slot booked at a grotty back street London club, where he is heckled by the drunken, rowdy Clark (Noel Clarke.) Rather than becoming scornful to his assailant's put downs, Warren sees a shining comic potential he wants to work with and tracks Clark down to the restaurant he works in, eager to form a double act with him. This sets the pair down a rickety and testing road where they lurch from one encounter to another in their bid to become big name stars.
Adapted from a stage play of the same name, Huge transforms into a small scale and short but quite successful movie adaptation. At a time when stand up comedy is regarded as 'the new rock and roll', where there's scores of fame and big bucks to be made in this field of entertainment, it's a relevant and perhaps even a little inspiring idea for a film. If nothing else, it's certainly a welcome break from the more downbeat, depressing 'kitchen sink' drama that once again tends to be doing the rounds a bit in independent British cinema, a nice, warm film with an unrelenting and undeniable air of the feel good factor to it.
If the film itself is a break away from the more grim cinematic output from Britain at the moment, it's also a break away for the two lead stars who are also associated with more gritty, raw Brit films. In a film where they moreorless are the cast, Harris and Clarke both open up and reveal different dimensions to themselves, as misguided but determined fools with something to prove and a dream to chase. Altogether, it's not enough to leave an impression of being brilliant, but it's certainly quite above average and surprising, and not in any way lost in translation. ***
"BEN MILLER'S HUGE" shouted the poster ads for a play about a pair of
aspiring comedians, which was produced on the Edinburgh Fringe back in
1993. Seventeen years on, Ben Miller one half of a double act with
Alexander Armstrong -- hasn't quite achieved the stratospheric success
of, say, Ricky Gervais or Sacha Baron Cohen. On the other hand, he has
finally made his directorial debut, bringing the characters he
co-created with Jez Butterworth and Simon Godley to the big screen.
In a dingy London flat, Warren (Johnny Harris) watches videos of his heroes Morecambe and Wise and practises fielding abuse from hecklers. Clark (Noel Clarke) is a waiter in a Greek restaurant, where he gets to hang out with former EastEnder Michelle Ryan and entertain kids with his glove puppet act. They meet during an open mike night at the Stoker's Hole, where Warren's faltering performance is rescued by Clark's timely intervention. Warren and Clark: a comedy legend is born.
If only it were that simple. In a nod to Cinderella, Clark flees the venue, leaving only his (Greek) slipper behind as a clue to his whereabouts. Before long the pair are sharing a flat, working on their material and dreaming of a bright future playing the Hollywood Bowl and schmoozing with the likes of Scarlett Johansson. Life settles into a pattern of incessant bickering and humiliation at the hands of indifferent promoters and impatient punters.
Huge is a film about comics but it isn't 80 minutes of riotous laughs. As everyone knows, real-life comedians are often depressed, repressed or just boring to be around. You won't be falling off your chair laughing at well-crafted gags or moments of slapstick hilarity, because we don't really get to see these guys perform. Mind you, if their oft-repeated "Knock, knock" joke is anything to go by, that's probably a good thing.
What we do get to see is the start of a friendship that just might evolve into a solid gold comic partnership somewhere down a very long and winding road. Miller and Godley played these lovable losers on stage, so their depiction of the realities of the London comedy circuit feels authentic sometimes painfully so. The film tries to convey those moments of paralysing fear before a performer hits the spotlight, by muting the dialogue making the audience appear even more intimidating. One of many low points comes when they're bounced out of a "Going, Going, Gong" night before they can get through their opening lines.
Apart from knowing this grimy milieu, Miller is also able to call upon the services of his celebrity mates to bolster the cast. Wisely he restricts himself to a brief cameo, but he does wheel out the likes of Eddie Izzard, Harry Hill and Frank Skinner for a scene in which the two wannabes crash the Comedy Awards after party. But it's Thandie Newton who reveals an unexpected flair for satire, playing a wildly over the top American promoter who takes a shine to the geeky Clark as she blithely dispenses career advice and Class A drugs.
The strength of Miller's film lies in the performances and the on-screen chemistry of his two leads. As the balding Warren, Johnny Harris (London to Brighton) brilliantly treads the fine line between wild optimism and utter despair, as he tries to break into the most unforgiving of professions. Bafta winner Noel Clarke, who was so menacing in Kidulthood, shows us he can be equally convincing as the kind of mild-mannered geek who attracts women without even trying. We sense that he's less committed to pursuing his craft than his partner, and it's no surprise that the climactic scene involves Warren reminding him that being successful isn't about being nice.
Does Huge, which had its premiere at this year's Edinburgh Film Festival, live up to its name? It's a likable excursion into the backwaters of British comedy, with a script that draws out the dilemmas and insecurities of being a performer. Sadly, this is without question the worst shot film I've ever seen -- anywhere. Last year Miller said in an interview "We intend to make this film, whether we end up shooting it in glorious 35mm or on my Sony camcorder." The grey, grainy and largely out-of-focus camera-work suggests that someone badly needs to upgrade their equipment.
this movie is just plain awful - everything about it is just poorly
thought out and completed! the effort at editing is not to be believed
and i find it difficult to believe a theatre actually showed it.
the acting is about as interesting as a tossed fast food container and the dialog adds up to high school level. there is no real story and then it ends. WHAT? and that chicken outfit - what did i miss? i realize the chicken suit happens after the 2 have split paths but it's not made clear what it's all about.
i notice i am the only state side reviewer here so maybe this British flick has more meaning in the UK but it adds up to zero here (at least for me).
steer clear of this movie. really i've seen better 'cheap' movies!
This film has a couple notable firsts: first directing role for Ben Miller, first non "Noel Clarke" Noel Clarke role. The film delves deep into the underbelly of the stand up world. It's a sometimes brutal but touching depiction of two guys trying to make it in comedy and it holds no punches. I love Noel Clarke and thought this film was brilliant as it showed him doing an entirely new type of role--it's certainly nothing like I'd seen him in before. Johnny Harris is also terrific, it's nice to see him getting meaty roles (more please!). The rest of the cast (Thandie Newton, Michelle Ryan, Eddie Izzard, etc) are, of course, great and really round it out. Definitely enjoyable. Great film.
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