Big Jim Review: Cemetary Junction

Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant are an odd pair. They are capable of creating some of the freshest, funniest, and inventive comedy I’ve ever seen. Their work in television has been spectacular (Gervais even got to write his own episode of The Simpsons, which has happened exactly never before or since), Ricky’s stand up is uproarious and natural, they even have a podcast that gave the world Karl Pilkington, a man for whom the word “genius” could be fairly applied.

But for all their massive success, and it has been massive, there has been one area in which they have been lacking; feature films. Gervais’ first, “Ghost Town,” was interesting but, while it delivered in some areas, felt like it was missing something. “The Invention of Lying,” was an absolutely brilliant idea that just felt… well, like a good idea. By that I mean it was an excellent situation that would have made the best 30 minute short film ever, but as a feature it just didn’t have the substance to sustain the premise.

So, when I heard the two made a heartwarming, coming of age buddy film set in England in the early 70’s I had a few thoughts. First of those was, “Really? You are aware that you are British and this sort of film is kind of an ‘American thing?’” The second being, “Wow, this is going to have a great first act, decent second, and about half way through the third it will completely lose it’s way.”

Cemetery-Junction-Poster.jpg

This poster does kind of sum up the film. Except for Ricky. He looks like some sort of aging British Fonzie, but he isn't. He is a factory working father with little time for any of this nonsense!

My first question was something they addressed. They viewed making this film as “beating the Americans at their own game.” No offense to the British, but the coming of age thing… that’s our thing. We do it all the time. Not that we necessarily do it better, but damn it, quantity has to count for something. But they didn’t necessarily beat us, they changed the game. This isn’t an American coming of age film, this is very much a British film. Not just in the accents, but the sensibility, the delivery, and the style are all very British, and in this film that is a very good thing.

The second set of issues slowly vanished as the film progressed. The brilliant first act became a brilliant second act that culminated in a brilliant third act. Finally, after years of wanting it, Ricky and Stephen made a really, really good film. Is it cliché ridden? Yes. It is one of the most cliché ridden films I’ve ever seen, but the difference with this one is, the clichés work.

The story is fairly standard; three friends, Freddie (the ambitious one), Snork (the harmlessly dopey and socially inept one), and Bruce (the rebel, who talks about getting out of his dead end town, but is destined to end up just like his father) dream big about leading the types of lives they are too scared and set in their ways to lead.

Each character has their own story, but they all rely on each other. Freddy meets an old flame, daughter of his new boss (played with assholeish abandon by Ralph Finnes), fiancée of his insurance firm’s best seller, just as he starts his new career path. Snork is desperate to find a girlfriend but keeps getting in his own way. Bruce blames his father for his mother leaving them, talks big about his future, but all he does as talk as he slowly turns into his father.

All three of these performances are exceptional and the friendship between these characters feels very real and compelling.

Now, there are a lot of details here that I am not going to go into plotwise because it is a standard coming of age type film. There really aren’t that many surprises, but there are a few genuinely touching scenes. Snork and the waitress, Julie (the love interest) and her mother (Emily Watson doing what Emily Watson does, which is being awesome), Bruce and his father (this quiet, understated scene is one of the most subtly written and directed I’ve seen, and it is supremely effective) are all truly moving and powerful.

Now, I might have just been in the right mood when I saw it, and perhaps were I in a different mindset the predictability would have bothered me, but as it was I really found this to be a very enjoyable film. It’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen, but for light entertainment it is very well written, well directed, well acted, and in the end a fairly good entry in the coming of age genre. Well done chaps.



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