Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Film Yap: Cemetery Junction

It’s a shame this movie never came out in theatres in the United States. I can’t really understand the logic. Is it because movie distributors don’t think that people could fathom a coming-of-age film that doesn’t take place in America? We did nominate An Education for Best Picture last year.

The confusion continues because the co-writers and co-directors are Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the geniuses behind The Office and Extras. Together they form this nostalgia of 1973 England. Three friends are living in the titular Cemetery Junction in Reading, which is often described as a terrible place to live but they’ll throw a punch if you talk bad about it.

Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke) doesn’t just want to end up in the factory like his father (Gervais). So he gets a job at a life insurance firm that is run by a powerful businessman who is played by Ralph Fiennes. In many ways Fiennes is what Freddie wants to aspire to. He rose up from Cemetery Junction and became someone who is very respectful and wealthy.

Bruce (Tom Hughes) is always conflicted about the city. He talks about leaving every day, but it seems he never will. He likes his friends and he doesn’t mind a factory job. He does mind his father, whom he doesn’t respect after he didn’t fight to get back their mother.

Snork (Jack Doolan) is the misfit of the group, but it is never broad. He’s a doofus, but I would still totally hang out with him everyday because he’s sincere and fun to be with.

The script could be criticized for not being ambitious enough, but that’s rather a ridiculous complaint. Coming-of-age films have lost respect over the years because too many filmmakers take shortcuts. This film has such a delicate focus on these boys’ arcs that the movie always feels fresh. The film isn’t focused on making sure it hits the epiphanies or the revelations, but that the characters are real at every moment. It’s refreshing and delightful.

When looking back at Gervais and Merchant’s TV work, I always forget they know how to balance the comedy and the sentimentality. With Extras, I may watch Ian McKellen’s breaking down acting over and over again, but the first thing I remember from that show is Gervais’s character breaking down inside the Big Brother house in the finale. With a film, they don’t have the time to build up the relationships to characters like a TV show can but there are still wonderful emotional moments that feel completely earned. Just hearing the year “1964” has such a sadder meaning for me now.

It’s also funny. It’s a very funny movie. David Earl is hysterical as this café owner who rants with blunt and terrible anecdotes. Steve Speirs balances the fun and the serious as a police sergeant who is trying to keep Bruce in line. Also Spork delivers these great nervous comedic monologues.

The extras for the DVD and Blu-Ray are very well done as well. Gervais and Merchant are hilarious together and provide a lot of laughs and insight as they discuss the creation of this film. With their featurettes and commentaries, they are enthusiastic of course but they are very honest about their young actors and what they wanted to accomplish. The three boys are actually allowed to shine in the DVD as they have their own fun commentary and featurette.

There are also a handful of deleted scenes and a blooper reel that’s surprisingly well edited. The Blu-Ray has exclusive featurettes that show how they captured the 70s through ton, sets, and costumes. It also has five production videos as well.

Film: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4.5 Yaps

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