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Exams, virginity loss, lads’ holidays and gap years; British writer-director Iain Morris has spent the last 10 years taking the piss out of teenage rites of passage, humiliating four dweeby sixth-formers better known as The Inbetweeners in the process. Morris’s hit sitcom spawned two spinoff films that took its characters on tour: the first, on an all-inclusive trip to Malia, the second, to “find” themselves in Australia. His new film, The Festival, takes on the myths – and the mud – of Glastonbury; though no characters cross over from The Inbetweeners universe, the film works as a kind of spiritual sequel.
When Nick (Joe Thomas, who played Simon in The Inbetweeners) is unceremoniously dumped by his girlfriend Caitlin (Hannah Tointon) at their university graduation, he vows to spend the summer confined to his bedroom, cry-wanking while surrounded by empty boxes of fried chicken. His best friend, Shane (Hammed Animashaun), a guilelessly optimistic EDM obsessive, convinces him that the best way to get out of his head – and over Caitlin – is to attend a music festival, and so, travelling on children’s tickets (“It’s so much cheaper!”), the pair take a train and pitch a tent in a field that “literally stinks of shit”. Shane hopes they will get to meet “DJ Hammerhead” (I won’t spoil which British comedian takes this role ) and play his idol some of his own tunes (“Wait for the drop – it’s just three more minutes”).
Along the way, they pick up Amy (Claudia O’Doherty of the Netflix series Love), a motor-mouthed Aussie equipped with a Tupperware container of “Chafney”, a mysterious, nutrient-packed grey slop that Shane decides is “quite good, actually”. O’Doherty is subtly tragicomic as the friendless festival veteran, playing up her unflappably positive attitude, whether hanging out in the queue for the Portaloos or, better still, in the paramedic’s tent.
Drug misuse is a predictable plot point, but the details are perfect: under the influence of MDMA, the otherwise straight-edge Nick falls for a girl dressed as Smurfette (Emma Rigby), on the run because she “stole some fruit from Tame Impala’s yurt”, while Gordy (Theo Barklem-Biggs), the crew’s resident dealer, confuses ketamine for cocaine, snorting five lines then immediately declaring he’d better “put on some Norah Jones and ride this one out”.
Indeed, it’s the specificity of the stereotypes that Morris hangs out to dry that make the film so funny. From character archetypes like posh blonde Lucy (Lizzy Connolly), who is constantly introducing herself to Shaun, despite the two having met about 40 times previously, to the names of the acts (“Yung Boner” being my personal favourite), the laughs land because the gags are so very precise.
As with Morris’s previous projects, the cringe comedy quotient is high; the film’s visceral, squirm-making moments involving an ill-advised nipple piercing and an unsavoury stain on Nick’s graduation gown are unlikely to convert those left unconvinced by this particular brand of boyish humour – and it’s worth noting that perhaps I am predisposed to it, given that The Inbetweeners ran from 2008-10, concurrent with my own time at sixth-form college.
Yet these set pieces are used sparingly, with the filth-encrusted minds of young writers Keith Akushie and Joe Parham (who collaborated on the BBC3 sitcom Siblings) drifting towards weirder, funnier scenarios. Flight of the Conchords star Jemaine Clement plays Shane’s overbearing oddball stepfather Robin, who does carpool karaoke to a Crowded House track; Shane and Amy encounter a creepy community of druids (“We’re druids, not cannibals!”). The boys perform an inspired, Magic Mike-esque striptease to David Guetta and Akon’s 2009 track Sexy Chick. Some of the film’s reference points feel a little dated; I’d have expected more memes and less Mr Brightside, but that’s a minor quibble.
The Inbetweeners Movie (2011) took £45m at the box office, becoming – believe it or not – the most successful British comedy of all time. The Festival, I think, is better.
It delivers its “lessons” with a light touch, allowing Nick a couple of moments of genuine, relatable pathos (“Why did I think I could be happy?” he laments, after running into Caitlin at the festival), but encouraging the audience to take his self-loathing with a pinch of salt. Robin consoles him, using cyclist Lance Armstrong as an example of a redeemable “problematic fave”. “Yeah, he’s a cheat and a bully, but he’s donated a lot of money to charity, and he’s got a great podcast.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: The Festival review – pitch perfect spiritual sequel to The Inbetweeners | Comedy films