A pretty on the nose PG-13. There's some drug use and Alice Eve in her underwear. I've seen her in two movies now and both involved her underwear. This was not a choice. This may be a commentary on how women are portrayed in media. Because, when in doubt, blame the media.
DIRECTOR: Tom Vaughan
It doesn't count against me watching the movie if I fell asleep for 15 seconds, does it? It couldn't have been that long because the characters were in the same scene talking about the same thing that they were talking about before. Part of it is my fault. When I was a kid, I would be flummoxed by people falling asleep during a movie. It blew my mind. It seemed like a slight against the filmmakers and the company present for the viewing of the movie. Now, I'm in my mid-thirties and if I get too comfortable ever, I'm asleep. But the movie was also kind of not up my alley, so that probably contributed to it. I'm going to go 70/30, with me taking the brunt of the responsibility. I'm still going to review it and you should pat me on the back for the sheer growth I've made by not going back and watching those fifteen seconds over again.
I tend not to lean into rom-coms very hard. Many of my friends, guys not only included -but used as the model for this argument, love rom-coms. I don't hate rom-coms as much as I used to, but they are very problematic for me. There is always this weird moral ickiness about many of the rom-coms I watch. Characters have practically no willpower and only seem concerned with their own happiness and that always upsets me. (I just realized that action movies often have characters with more moral fortitude, so if I'm ever accused of watching an action movie over something that is spiritually uplifting.) I know a lot of it is the fact that I love having the moral high ground. There is no seat so comfortable as riding that high horse. I know the stuff I watch is garbage too, but I get way more angry at the characters in rom-coms. It doesn't make sense, but I do. Starter for 10 is not really too much different. Brian starts off in a fairly moral place, but he does kind of court two women simultaneously. The movie glosses over this to a certain extent, except for in the moments that make rom-coms all worth it. It is those moments that make you gasp like you do when you watch trash TV like Jerry Springer. There's one of these moments and I suddenly understood what made these movies appealing. It is the drama of awkwardness. Is the whole movie worth this moment? Probably not. But that moment of soul-crushing pain when something criminally awkward happens is odd. I just kind of want one of these movies to explore the morality of a character and how it deteriorates. The movie tries duplicating this moment later in the movie, and while the emotional impact is effective, it doesn't have much resolution. It was emotional manipulation for its own sake, but that's kind of forgivable. As part of that Starter for 10's weakness lies in the fact that it never tries to explode beyond its genre. It embraces the rules of the rom-com and thrives in it. That's not the worst thing in the world. I've already put more thought into the analysis of this movie than probably it has gotten from any other viewer.
You know that joke that everyone has about there only being, like, fifteen British actors? I'm not above this joke. This is one of the movies that gathers most of them in one film. They also are also mostly actors who have done great genre films as well. Look at this list! James "Professor X" McAvoy, Catherine "Donna Noble" Tate, Benedict "Benedict Cumberbatch" Cumberbatch, Alice "I've already mentioned nude Carol Marcus" Eve, Dominic "Howard Stark" Cooper, Rebecca "Bad Girl from Iron Man 3" Hall, James "The Lodger, But Really Late Night" Corden, and Mark "Mycroft to Cumberbatch's Sherlock" Gatiss. All in one movie. That's what got us to watch the movie to begin with. We were just scrolling through Direct TV's On Demand Romance movie list and then saw the list. It's in 2006 and a lot of them haven't developed into the actors we knew today, but it was fun watching this cast interact. I thought a nerd black hole was going to open, especially considering that none of theme had really played the characters that would make them famous yet. It was also really weird not seeing McAvoy crush it. He wasn't bad, by any means. But he wasn't James McAvoy of James McAvoy fame. He was standard handsome male British lead. Really, the only one of the group who really destroyed in the way that I knew that he would was Cumberbatch. But that's because it's Cumberbatch not having to say the word "penguin". He's great. I want to believe that Benedict Cumberbatch really wants to play silly characters. He's like DeNiro in that way. He's such a good dramatic actor, but he is just crying out for something funny to do. The odd thing is that I'm giving him all these props, but he's playing a caricature rather than anything round. That part had to be the easiest to play, but who cares? He made the movie worth watching. He's not exactly a cut up, but the movie just needed him as a character who makes the audience enjoy him getting punched in the face. (I don't know how to say that sentence better. I'm also writing against the clock.)
I did get bored with this movie and I think part of it is that it is very close to becoming something special. The way that the movie is filmed gives it that High Fidelity feel to it sometimes. It doesn't go full on bro-ey nor could it be insulted by calling it a chick-flick, but it never really captures an authentic voice. Part of it is that it never really embraces its core concept, which is part of the title. I had to look this one up, so bear with me. Starter for Ten refers to the opening round of a British trivia game show. The first round gives ten points for the team that gets it right. This game show (University Challenge, if I remember) plays a noticeable part in the plot, but the movie never fully embraces the game shows major storyline. Brian meets Alice (Hey, I just realized that Alice is played by Alice Eve and Rebecca was played by Rebecca Hall. I thought it was based on a novel!) while practicing for this game show, but it seems like such a background idea to the story. Most of the story is Brian trying to get noticed by Rebecca, despite the fact that he is crushing for Alice. (That sounds more creepy when I write it down.) Most of the story is how college is weird and it is broken up from time-to-time with game show practice. Imagine if Quiz Show was just a guy sitting at home, and about every fifteen minutes, there is a 1-2 minute scene where they discuss the quiz show. (Okay, I've never seen Quiz Show. It's on my list!) I imagine that there is a hardcore following of this show, which may bring in British audiences. I know I would probably be a little disappointed if I followed the show closely and the movie barely addressed it. As part of that, there is this moment when the characters are actually on TV and there is this shoehorned in plot point. The character doesn't actually deal with the consequences of that moment and the story is really about the relationship between the guy and the girl. So why have this Bad News Bears like story that just distracts from the relationship?
The biggest thing about this romantic comedy is that it isn't all that funny. The actors are doing a fantastic job. You know that Catherine Tate could crush a comedic scene had it been funny enough. (Bee-tee-dubs, why put her in a role where she is James McAvoy's mother? They're eleven years apart.) But there isn't a real belly laugh moment throughout the story. Really, there are a few chuckles. I hate to say it, but Tate actually gets the funniest moment in the moment and it is only a bit of a giggle. It is meant to throw you into stitches. It doesn't. I might even say that the movie is even more of a bummer than most American rom-coms, that don't really crack me up either. And don't write me off like I don't get British humor. I get British humor. It's just that this movie is so darned tame that it doesn't really give a lot to work with.
I'm not sure what I want to say about Dominic Cooper's character. There's a story in there somewhere that could really be interesting to watch. The character is the best friend's screw up buddy, who avoids responsibility and tends to blame others for his problems. There is this B-or-C story with him and it really could give Brian something to deal with. It kind of feels like Cooper's storyline is just in the plot to give Brian something to explode over. His character doesn't really go through this arc so much as piles upon the protagonist's list of self-created troubles. Cooper comments, sometimes inadvertently, about Brian's social advantages and that's probably what makes Brian such a boring character. Brian's problems are self-created. He is his own worst enemy, but not in a David Brent way. He just does dumb and dramatic things and then gets really depressed. His intellect seems to mirror his personality, which makes for convenient storytelling, but his problems make him somewhat of an unsympathetic character. I never full on hated him, by any means. I still rooted for him to get with the character that I wanted him to get with at the beginning. But I also was kind of ambivalent about the whole thing. He's the cause of his own pain and that is annoying.
The movie isn't terrible. But the movie is also extremely forgettable. I liked seeing all of my favorite genre actors together in one movie before they all got really good at their jobs. But that kind of makes it a novelty. I don't know if my wife liked it or not, but I knew she probably didn't love that I don't like rom-coms as much as she does. But you know what I like? Movies. I'll watch a lot, assuming I'm allowed to write about it later.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.