By: Gabriel El Dorado (Four Beers) –
I chose to view How to Get Ahead in Advertising because I am an enormous Withnail & I fan (I have a poster in my room, NOW that is fandom) and since both movies star Richard E. Grant and were directed by Bruce Robinson, I felt drawn to this film. The film is supposed to be an exposé on the grimy dealings of advertising and how it is such a despicable and manipulative industry and blah blah blah. I am fully aware that I am buying shit I do not need. Without commercials, we wouldn’t have gotten to enjoy Billy Mays, so ponder that for a little while.
The film follows Denis Bagley (Richard E. Grant) a self –assured asshole who is supposed to embody the entire industry as he begins work on a new campaign for pimple cream(British people call them boils but they also refer to toothpaste as “not invented” so they are weird) cream. Which to me doesn’t sound hard. Just have Katy Perry talk about the “acne” she didn’t have and let her rub her endorsement millions into our black-headed noses (opens palm to receive money).
Like people are staring at your face anyways.
As it turns out, Bagley is completely stumped for the new endorsement, so much so that it starts to eat away at him (not at his soul mind you, he doesn’t have one, remember? Advertising?). Bagley begins to mentally unravel and develops, of all things, a boil/pimple/repulsive growth on his neck. Soon the pimple develops a life of its own, literally (I just Pete Hammonded that phrase) and begins to talk to him. Naturally only he can hear the boil and what its saying (Jesus Christ is there a more played out plot technique than the talking boil?) so Bagley is left to fend it off on his own as it takes over more and more of his life.
I raise my glass to Bruce Robinson’s view on consumerism and the valid and needed points that the film makes, but last time I checked this film was produced to make money, so that kind weakens any argument made about how greedy and controlled our society is. Did you see that? I just did a back-handed Toast, I am like your dickish brother who was forced into best man duties. All hilarity aside, parts of the film are bitingly funny and Richard E. Grant shines when he goes over the top and manic, which he spends the majority of the film doing.
As for Bagley’s wife (played by Rachel Ward), holy shit. I was dumbstruck at her performance; she made January Jones look like Jim Carrey. It’s as if they shuttled a Stepford wife over and had her act in a feature film. It’s also as if they shot the film in Madam Toussad’s wax museum and used one of her creations. Do you understand that I thought Rachel Ward had the emotional range of a block of wood? Should I resort to more shtick? Maybe, I am being too harsh her or maybe she just didn’t give a rat-ass about this movie and knew she wasn’t getting paid regardless, which totally ruins “the message”.
If this little jerk-off can “feel” why can’t you Rachel Ward? Why can’t you?
If when writing a review you become bored thinking about the movie and its plot you can be assured that the film drags on. It’s nearly two hours of Richard E. Grant going crazy and screaming like a wronged homeless person. It was funny for the first twenty minutes but after a while you’re going to wish you brought something harder to chase Bagley’s breakdowns.
This is actually from the movie, proving my point.
Cronenburg’s earlier films like Videodrome had these gruesome special effects in which they used an abundance of make-up to make some gory wound or abnormal growth. Well the boil looks just like one of Cronenburg’s disgusting creations and we are forced to look at it way too many times. The film is not counting on shock value so why make it appear so gross? It adds absolutely nothing to the film. It is the kid in class wiping his boogers on you because, well, he can’t not because he’s trying to gross you out.
I don’t really see a reason to see this film because it is dated and doesn’t really have a huge appeal. However, if you like Richard E. Grant then yes, I suppose you could possibly enjoy this movie. Otherwise don’t waste your time for such a bland film.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time someone on screen drinks (that’s all you need to get drunk)
Chug a beer: at the transformation (you will know when you see it)