Many years after the “BBC documentary” The Office was screened, David Brent still finds himself struggling with the day job, and dreams of making his part-time music career his full time work. To get the word of his band – aptly named Foregone Conclusion – out, Brent cashes in his pension and takes the band on tour, but fame and fortune are not quick to arrive.
“I am following my dream with my band Foregone Conclusion, and this is our story”, so begins the return of Ricky Gervais’ most famous character – David Brent – to the big screen. Seemingly stuck in some kind of arrested development, Brent is back and fans will rejoice in the fact that he still seems to have learned nothing in life.
Ricky Gervais slips back into the character of David Brent with ease; still inappropriate, painful and with an inflated sense of self, Gervais seems to revel in the chance to play Brent on the big screen for such a prolonged time, and does incredibly well in making David Brent: Life on the Road as cringeworthy and painful as he ever was. The rest of the cast balance out Gervais’ over the top character, while talking about their embarrassment to be seen with him, and taking advantage of his desperation to “make it”. That cast includes Jo Hartley, Doc Brown, Tom Bennett and Mandeep Dhillon.
As screenwriter, it is obvious that Ricky Gervais has a lot of love for the hapless David Brent, and while the film is everything fans could expect from a David Brent movie, 96 minutes is a long time to be embarrassed, and the running time often feels torturous. As with The Office, there are the occasional moments of sweetness throughout the film, but the turning point in the film seems to come rather suddenly, even though the ending may not be the happy one that Brent so strongly desires.
As director, Gervais makes sure that the characters are fleshed out for most of the running time, but quickly turns their behaviour on their heads for the sake of ending the film, but this feels rather sudden. There is also the feeling that the characters who cringe around the wholly inappropriate David Brent are actually just reacting to the character that Gervais is playing. The pacing of the film is mostly steady, but there are times when the film feels drawn out and painful.
In all, fans of David Brent will delight in this deliberately awkward, well observed and carefully created comedy, but there are times when the pacing of the film drops, characters change their minds at a moment’s notice and those less devoted to Brent may find being embarrassed for 96 minutes rather hard work.