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
Whitley Home is the name of the home builder on the billboard that Bruce and Snork vandalize. Whitley is also the name of an area in the town of Reading, England in which Ricky Gervais was born. 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.
See more »
Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais are behind two of my favourite ever TV shows in Extras and The Office. Unfortunately, neither of them have ever lit up the cinema screen (Gervais was ina couple of rather bad films) to the extent that many Biritsh film fans probably would've hoped. Finally, they're collaborating for a film called Cemetery Junction and, for the most part anyway, they're at their best.
The film is set in the 1970s; a semi-autobiographical comedy-drama about three young men reluctantly heading towards adulthood. It's set in Reading and has three total unknowns in the lead role, yet somehow the story works. You've got eager white-collar hopeful Freddie (Christian Cooke), lippy Jagger-ish rebel Bruce (Tom Hughes) and their lardy lovable friend Snork (Jack Doolan). The basic setup is that they want to get out of Reading and escape their tedious lives of messing about and getting drunk.
It's a pretty simple and unoriginal setup and the film does take a while to get going. Ricky Gervais' comedy work in films has been patchy in the past and in the first 30 minutes or so it worried me that Cemetery Junction looked to be going the same way as some of previous craptaculars like The Invention of Lying. The bad jokes and awkward euphemisms get in the way of the films cool, breezy 70s vibe that director Stephen Merchant has created. Basically, it felt like Gervais was trying too hard.
Luckily, things start to pick up later on and Gervais and Merchant's gift for creating fine comedy starts to show. The introduction of Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones and Emily Watson coincide with the films upturns in fortunes. Fiennes does a sharp sketch in callous entitlement as the boss from hell, and Emily Watson lends her sad wisdom to the role of his wife, an unappreciated person who wants her daughter (Felicity Jones) to fare better. It would be unfair to suggest that the 3 leads were a bit incompetent, but Gervais seemed to be using their youth as an excuse for cheap gags and puns before introducing some proper comedy when the more experienced trio turned up. It feels like we're in safer hands from here on, and the film's spreading warmth is its salvation.
That's not to say that the 3 leads are bad. Tom Hughes is especially good; he's charismatic and his timing is practically perfect. The other two don't fare quite as well, but improve as the film itself does.
Cemetery Junction got off to a worrying start. Gervais' writing was at odds with Merchants directing style until Ralph Fiennes and team turned up which seemed to flick Gervais' funny switch on and he started to turn out some really great moments. The first 30 minutes is undeniably awkward and dull, but if you can get through that then you'll find an exceptionally funny film in which Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant finally get their great comedy right on the big screen.
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