Sightseers (2012)

Sightseers (2012)

Cinema-goers are an eclectic bunch. The love for film transcends every demographic – old, young, nerd or jock. Everyone’s welcome at the cinema. I’m not sure that should always be the case, as some patrons are slightly more… unusual than others. We’ve all had the misfortune to sit near one. Or maybe you actually are one of those fruitcups that makes everyone else sitting around you either a) incredibly annoyed with you, or b) scared of you. Good for you. Probably. You know the people I’m talking about though; some will guffaw with laughter over the mildest of amusements (replete with thigh slapping), whilst others will actively talk to the screen out loud because I’m sure the characters in the film can hear you and appreciate your feedback. Well, my viewing of Sightseers was definitely one of those viewings and the film lends itself to the screwballs.

Sightseers is a British “comedy” about a roadtrip around the British Isles by Chris (Steve Oram) and his newly-minted and incredibly timid girlfriend Tina (Alice Lowe). The couple travel to the most mundane of British amusements (a pencil factory, a tram museum etc.) whilst towing their caravan behind them. However, there’s a twist. Chris is a little bit psychotic… he’s a bit of a serial killer when his patience is tested. Hilarity ensues. Well, it should… but it doesn’t. Not one iota.

Sightseers (2012)

This is an incredibly dark film. So dark that nary a ray of light can penetrate it. I cannot label this a comedy unless you get your jollies from either a) incredibly banal jokes, or b) extreme violence. If this is you… I’d contact someone about that. You’ll know you’re one of these folks if you find yourself talking to a screen at the cinema. If you’re like me however, you’ll leave the cinema feeling incredibly beaten down and slightly unhappy. This isn’t a comedy, so don’t believe the plaudits and opinions some of our bigger and more noticed peers may be throwing at this film.

Whilst I found the initial half of the film incredibly hard going, owing to its humour missing me entirely and the plot blundering along at an incredibly slow pace, I did find my interest improving over the course of the film. The whole “serial killer” vibe is very much a one-trick pony, but I was intrigued to see how the plot would progress and conclude. The two lead actors, Oram and Lowe are fantastic in their respective roles, so nothing can be taken from them. Their characters are incredibly vivid and well-realised, it’s just a pity that I didn’t find myself warming to either of them over the 88 minute runtime.

Sightseers (2012)

I just struggle to get over the humour of the film. A while ago in my Cockneys vs. Zombies review I mentioned a similar phenomenon wherein there was much knee-slapping from certain audience members who couldn’t get enough of the Brit-themed zombie action. I struggled to see how this was funny in the slightest, despite labelling myself a massive advocate of British comedy. I think it ultimately comes down to a divide in the population. Whilst some members of the public love shows like Peep Show and The Inbetweeners, others will find that humour too awkward and instead opt for Two Pints of Lager and Miranda. I fall into the former camp and cannot tolerate the latter. For my non-UK readers, let me put it a different way. The former two shows are a lot like The Office (US and UK) – quite awkward situational comedy, whilst the latter are the classic laughter-track sitcoms that swamp the TV landscape where laughter comes as a result of someone falling over or saying “bum”. As non-cerebral as you can get.

With that being said, I feel that Sightseers appeals to those in the latter camp. For better, or worse, I just couldn’t identify with this film on any level beyond watching it to review. As I say, it’s not a bad film, and will definitely have its audience out there in the world, but it really wasn’t for me. Releasing it at Christmas was also a peculiar choice too. This is definitely an October film – a dark, oppressive season for a dark, disturbing film.

2012 has been somewhat of a stale year for British comedy at the box office, at least by The Phage‘s reckoning. The Wedding Video, Keith Lemon: The Film and Cockneys vs. Zombies all failed to bring me joy and Sightseers has the same fate. That being said, Sightseers is a very different type of film that may have just been mis-labelled as a comedy. It’s more of a thriller / horror with dark humour thrown in for the ride. Whilst the acting is incredibly convincing, the film just didn’t entertain me. And whilst I’m not averse to a downbeat ending (in fact, I quite enjoy them), the whole film was so downbeat that the ending was just a nail in the coffin for me.

But then again, if you were the person in my screening that proclaimed “oh dear” at the top of your voice when someone died, or you asked questions of / warned the characters on-screen, then you probably thought this was a great film. It seems the UK has more than its fair share of the mentally unstable that frequent the cinema at mid-week. I can’t help but feel that Chris and Tina from Sightseers would be two of those characters. Let’s just hope that person X from my screening doesn’t own a caravan and harbor a homicidal rage. We can but hope.

Phage Factor:

2 Stars

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The Wedding Video (2012)

A failed marriage

Ah, the tradition of making videos to capture those special moments in life; whether they be first birthdays, family holidays, or indeed weddings. Everyone’s been in one, and some of you may have filmed them… but how many of you have actually sat and watched those videos again? Honestly? I’m willing to bank on “not many”. I remember when I was younger being filmed on camcorder when in Disney World… have I ever seen that tape again? Have I hell! Even if my VHS player wasn’t in the attic, I still wouldn’t feel the desire to dig out those old recordings. So is The Wedding Video an exception to the rule, or should it still be gathering dust next to those old mangled GI Joe toys that will definitely be worth something one day?

Robert Webb, Lucy Punch

The Wedding Video: happily ever after, or a drunken mistake?

Before I bestow my opinion on this, let’s just fill you in on what this film is about. Firstly, it’s a British film, filled with British actors. This probably means a US remake is about 3 years away (hello Death At A Funeral – I’m looking at you). The film revolves around Raif (Rufus Hound), who decides to record the lead up to the wedding of his brother (Robert Webb) and his fiancée Saskia (Lucy Punch) as his wedding gift. It all operates in a very “found footage”-esque way, with the film recorded in a style to mimic the handy-cams made famous by The Blair Witch Project. It’s a nice take on the rom-com genre, as handy-cams have been used to record poltergeists, witches, and even ghosts on the moon… but not yet for the terrors of a wedding.

But that’s where the novelty and for me, enjoyment, wears off. I’m a great fan and advocate of British comedy. Recent series such as The Inbetweeners and Peep Show clearly showcase how fantastic the Brits are at making hilarious shows. The Inbetweeners in particular has been extremely successful, transitioning to the silver screen last year with unexpected success both financially and critically (US folks – it hits your cinemas on 7th September… and you have a horrible MTV remake of the series airing now I believe). On paper, The Wedding Video has the right ingredients to succeed, owing to the fact it has Peep Show‘s Robert Webb and comedian Rufus Hound, in addition to various other British comedy alumni. It should succeed… but I can honestly say I didn’t laugh once.

Do you think we should even be filming this?

A comedy film is only as successful as the laughs it can produce, and by my judgement one smile in a 94 minute run time isn’t good. The writing fails to connect on so many levels, with most of the attempts at humour falling very short of the mark. And this comes from the writer and director combination of Tim Firth and Nigel Cole, who brought the enormously successful Calender Girls to screens in 2003. These guys aren’t rookies. They should really have nailed this, but didn’t. You may be thinking I’m an elitist or comedy snob. Yes, I have high expectations of my comedy, but I’m not alone in this. Of the 40-50 others in my screening, I heard one or two bouts of laughter in the entire film. This is in comparison to Ted, where some people wouldn’t stop laughing, regardless of whether I judged a joke to be a hit or miss (damn Cleveland Show fans).

I feel sorry for the lead actors having to work with such a poor script. Neither are really given the opportunity to flex their comedic muscles. The female lead, Lucy Punch, fares just as well owing to that script. She also exudes an aura of Jennifer Saunders in her acting. I’m not sure if this is a compliment or not, but take it as you will. Two actors are worthy of praise though: the always reliable Miriam Margoyles (Romeo & Juliet, Harry Potter) delivers in every scene she’s in – a real highlight, as does Harriet Walter (Sense & Sensibility, Atonement), playing grandmother and mother of the bride respectively. Walter‘s wedding reception speech was particularly moving; it caught me off-guard and instantly alleviated my boredom. However, not even these great performances could rescue this film. Don’t even get me started on the farcical ending either. I’d normally advocate seeing a British comedy until my face turned blue. But not this one… not in the slightest. Hell, if you had to choose between this and the weak The Lorax, I’d choose the latter. Says it all really.

The Wedding Video acts as an example of how not to write a British comedy film; ultimately coming off as something that should have been restrained to an hour-long TV episode, and not a feature length film. Recently, British comedy has seen something of a resurgence on the big screen, with such hits as Shaun of the Dead, Four Lions and The Inbetweeners Movie. Luckily these films outweigh the Beans, Lesbian Vampire Killers and The Wedding Videos of this world.

In a way The Wedding Video is pretty true to its title. Wedding videos are created to be viewed to bring back memories of a moment you can love and cherish for the rest of your life. Sometimes though they just provide bitter memories of the time you married that utter tool who treated you like something they scraped off their shoe for the next 12 months before you caught them cheating on you with that douche / slut from the next street. They’re relationships and memories you’d rather forget. This is that video.

Phage Factor: