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WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

It’s a film about the making of the film of a novel described as an unfilmable novel – that novel is “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentlemen.” Having established that it’s based on a book, this is where I’d normally summarise the plot of that book – but in short, there isn’t really one. Whether you’ve actually even heard of it or not is besides the point.
In the eponymous role, in the film-within-a-film is the actor we all know (and some of us love), Steve Coogan, who in Winterbottom’s “making-of” film is played by – well – the actor we all know (and some of us love), Steve Coogan.
The Steve character is constantly in dispute with his co-star, Rob Brydon – played with authenticity by – well – Rob Brydon.
As the production team struggle to get the film completed, they sign up help from the American star Gillian Anderson, played by – yup, you guessed it.
Then there are girlfriends, babies, reporters and other spanners thrown in the works.
If nothing else, this film is a humorous – but sadly realistic – illustration of the difficulties of getting a feature film made in the UK.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

There’s no doubt that anyone who’s made their decision to see this based on the cast list will spend most of the time laughing – often out aloud. But as far as getting any real satisfaction from the film, forget about it.
There’s no real story – the characters don’t develop – you’ve seen the first scene and you’ve seen them all. But if you like the first scene, stick around for another hour and a half of the same kind of cheeky, cantankerous, misanthropic and cynical fun. If you don’t, you might as well leave the cinema immediately.
The film is a string of almost random encounters, nudging the “film-within-a-film” towards completion, through a whole load of “what-could-possibly-get-in-the-way-next” moments.
Presenting the lead actor as a vain, humourless and paranoid grotesque – a little like David Brent, without the pathos – it’s a brave role for Coogan to take on, as there’ll be people who think that’s what he’s really like – particularly since it comes across as so realistic, anyone not familiar with Alan Partridge might be mistaken for thinking it’s a documentary.

Opens nationwide on 20th January 2006

Interesting aside: Given the self-referential nature of the film, it seemed apt that the preview theatre I was sitting in when I saw it was the very same preview theatre Coogan, Brydon et al were sitting in to watch the screening of their Tristram Shandy film.

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