DVD Hidden Gem: “Cemetery Junction”
September 17, 2010 3 Comments
I know each Friday I post the “Gimme 5” feature, but I’ve been busy this week and thus, lazy in writing new posts (only one this week). I felt a bit guilty about neglecting my blogging duties & decided to skip the “Gimme 5” — just this week, even though it is one of my favorite aspects of this blog and where I get your much appreciated input. Rest assured, there will be a new one next Friday…
Can I just say that Ricky Gervais is slowly becoming one of my most favorite talents in the film industry? His stand-up is hilarious and smart, his TV series “Extras” was a riot, his performance in Ghost Town was heartfelt and witty — and his trifecta as writer/director/actor of last year’s The Invention of Lying was a comedic triumph (as I voted it one of the Top 10 films of the year). Gervais is a breath of fresh air in an industry that seems stale and unoriginal. Don’t believe me? Take a look at all the movies we had to pick from this past summer. A complete disappointment, in my book.
Now comes the delightful Cemetery Junction, which was released earlier this year in the U.K., but I don’t recall seeing it in any theatres here in the States. Gervais co-wrote and co-directed the film with Stephen Merchant and I must say that it threw me for a bit of a loop. Going into it, I knew nothing about the story. I simply saw Gervais attached to it and decided to screen it. I cannot tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to see something completely different coming from him already.
Though there are some light-hearted moments and bits of comedy here and there, Cemetery Junction is, for all intents and purposes, a drama. It is a touching and at times, powerful coming of age story set in 1973 and revolves around young Freddie (Christian Cooke) who wants nothing more than to break free from the provincial, working-class town Cemetery Junction, a suburb of Reading. He wants to make it big, make money, and be a success. He sees the wealthy Mr. Kendrick (Ralph Fiennes), as being the very model of success and goes to him looking for a sales job, hoping to prove himself and work his way up in the company. Freddie’s two friends, Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan) aren’t as embarrassed about their stations in life and are pretty content with the way things are. Freddie’s ambitions obviously put quite a strain on their friendship and the core of the movie lies there. The three actors do a wonderful job at playing off one another and the strong script gives them each great depth and character. Bruce’s strained relationship with his alcoholic father makes for a very dramatic subplot and the scenes, though painful to watch, are well crafted and executed quite nicely. Doolan provides a lot of the comic relief as the nerdy, lovable loser. The scenes between him and the shy waitress are a pure treasure though and quite sweet.
Gervais and Merchant fill the story with many interesting characters that inhabit Cemetery Junction. Gervais himself takes a bit of a backseat here in the supporting role of Freddie’s working-class father. Of course, the scenes at the home featuring Gervais, his wife and elderly mother are pretty funny, especially the wise-cracking banter between he and his mother. Emily Watson also takes on a supporting role, playing the unhappy and under-appreciated, Mrs. Kendrick. The relationship between the Kendricks is a vital component to the film and Watson (as always) brings a quiet strength to her character. When she opens up to her daughter, it is a “coming out” of sorts and we instantly feel for her.
Gervais has said that he was inspired by the Bruce Springsteen lyric “It’s a town full of losers, I’m pulling out of here to win” from the classic 1975 song, “Thunder Road” — the idea of someone not wanting to be confined to such squalid and deprived surroundings; to set out and try to attain one’s dream of success. That is what is at the heart of this wonderful little film. He said that he felt the Americans have pretty much monopolized this idea in film and that he wanted to bring this coming-of-age tale to the screen from the point of view of the English, setting the movie in the very town he was raised in. The movie is now out on DVD and Blue-Ray now and I highly recommend people to see it. It is smart, touching, funny, and at times, unpredictable. There are great conflicts amongst the friends, their families, and a complicated love story between Freddie and his old school sweetheart Julie (Felicity Jones) that is brought to life in warm and genuine fashion. After seeing The Invention of Lying, I remember writing that I could not wait to see what Gervais would bring us next…in Cemetery Junction, he surely did not disappoint.