David Brent: Life on the Road

Kate Young
31st Aug 2016

I’m going to put it out there straight away, I am not a personal fan of Ricky Gervais. It's not an uncommon opinion that he is tiresome. Despite that, there is no denying that the man is a genius - Writing, producing, directing and starring in some of the world’s best comedy. One such example was a little show called The Office (2001-2003), a mockumentry sitcom that follows the day-to-day lives of office employees in the Slough branch of the fictitious Wernham Hogg Paper Company. It was here that we were first introduced to the character of David Brent (played by Gervais).

Brent (arguably much like Gervais) posses a very narcissistic personality, believing himself to be a bit of a rebel in the business world and a Renaissance man, talented in philosophy, music and comedy. He thinks that he is easygoing, funny and popular, while others perceive him as rude, annoying and selfish. His immaturity comes across as he plays up for the camera’s telling unfunny jokes, doing trite impressions and getting himself in trouble by talking before thinking.

The feature Life on the Road picks up 12 years after the conclusion of The Office. After having left the “office” in search of something new we find that Brent has now become a traveling salesman with Lavichem, a cleaning and feminine hygiene products company. Loved by clients, loathed by coworkers and feeling trapped in the mundane rut of life, Brent embarks on making his life long dream of rock stardom a reality. Throwing caution to the wind, Brent sets out to self finance a UK tour with his band, Foregone Conclusion. After assembling a group of session musicians to accompany him on the road (who are just in it for the money), and a talented rapper named Dom (Ben Bailey Smith) who he hopes will help him in an attempt to gain street cred, Brent hits the road for one last shot at fame and fortune.

The premise of Life on the Road is about the character of Brent and the relationship we have with him. After so many years we still find ourselves cheering on a man who, at heart, is the ultimate dreamer. Brent means well but acts stupidly. All he wants in life is to be liked and to make people laugh. Only problem being that he is his own worst enemy, too busy worrying about impressing and receiving approval from those that set out to mock his character.

The film at times is quite low brow humour and I often found myself giggling when I knew I shouldn’t, especially when it came to lyrics for most (if not all) of Foregone Conclusion's songs. No one is left unscathed. as everyone is made fun of.

The true standout as always is Gervais himself and his skill in becoming his characters, including their many tics - the awkward whinnying laugh after every joke, the lip bit too late or that drowning stare to camera as he realises the faux pas he’s just made. Most the time you just want to throttle him but you cant help rooting for the underdog as he pours all his hard earned money into a tour that is doomed from the very beginning. The band are hired hands who hate him, so much they even charge him for their time when he asks to have a beer after their shows.

In Life on the Road, the gigs are sparsely attended disasters with no one showing up to hear them, and the open road is the M25, a near-complete loop littered with hotel rooms along the way (even though it's half an hour away from home). The one thing that can never be put out is Brent’s spark and its that light that the audience will warm to.

David Brent: Life on the Road is in Australian cinemas now.