David Brent: Life on the Road (Gervais, 2016)

How does Ricky Gervais consistently write movies with extremely pathetic and cringeworthy characters that I would normally dislike but can’t help and support? And there is no real reason why a movie, based on Gervais’ character (David Brent) in the original The Office, released thirteen years after the show itself ended (2003), should be good. Except that it just is.

Brent is just as he was: overly confident, awkward, and a general nuisance. He has only a few friend, annoys all his coworkers, and struggles to understand social cues. He tells racist and sexist jokes without understanding why they’re offensive:
HR: “What about telling sexist jokes to women?”
Brent: “So you’re saying we should only tell them to men? Sexist.”
HR: “No, I’m saying you shouldn’t be telling them at all.”
Brent: “Oooooh. Okay”.
What’s funniest, perhaps, is that this absolutely mirrors society. When you inform someone they have said something offensive, you’re now being offensive.

Brent is still trying to make it as a musician and maybe this is where the root of my support in his character comes from: he continues to pursue his dream even when it seems obvious to everyone else that he should give up. Brent is willing to put his finances on the line to try to make this career happen. He isn’t completely clueless as he puts together a good team, though they have no interest in supporting him but are certainly happy to take his (financial) support. The more I see those around him treat him poorly the more I want this underdog to succeed even when I’m sure he’s incapable of succeeding.

I’m happy to report that, for lovers of The Office (UK), this is a worthy extension. Gervais is a master at giving his characters depth and growth, and that’s ultimately why we can empathize with them while rolling our eyes at their behavior.

Final note: it is a bit weird to watch David Brent: Life on the Road, which is clearly in high definition, compared to the television show that felt like sub-standard definition.