In this long form version of his YouTube show The Trews, Russell Brand and filmmaker Michael Winterbottom join forces to shine a light on the divide between rich and poor in the UK, and how the public is unwittingly letting the people responsible for the banking crisis away with it.
In the past five or six years, Russell Brand has been taking on more and more political challenges, and leaving the world of his stand up career to one side. The Emperor’s New Clothes seems to be the culmination of this new career path, and is an admirable move from a man who has made a career of being a comic. This, however, is part of the problem with the public perception of Brand’s career change, and although he is a talented and succinct comic and writer, this fails to translate into the film.
Throughout the film, Brand examines the recent banking crisis and its ramifications both in the UK, and the western world as a whole. There is little doubt that Brand is an engaging speaker, and the film has a strong message at its core, but unlike other films designed to raise awareness that we do not simply have to accept the fallout from the issues we are living with – the films of Michael Moore spring to mind – The Emperor’s New Clothes lacks a cohesive feel.
Brand and the film ramble from points about the banking crisis, to interviews with those convicted for looting during the London riots, to those who have to work every hour of the day to provide for their families, while those at the heart of the banking crisis have got million pound bonuses. There are very valid points here, but by not focusing on one train of thought, and spending a lot of the film watching Brand try to doorstep those behind the banking crisis, the film loses its way.
While there is a strong message at the heart of The Emperor’s New Clothes, and brand does offer solutions as well as the problems, it is also a film that feels rather simplistic at times – whether banks change the way they operate if some of their numbers are jailed, or if they will allow someone else to step in and carry on, is a question that is never asked or answered. If Brand’s aim is to raise awareness, then the film almost always does its job. If, however, the aim of the film is to be a solid, dramatic and engaging documentary that changes the way we think about issues, then its rambling focus does it more harm than good.