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How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989) Review

26 04 2011

Copyright 1989 Handmade Films

★ ★ ★

Withnail and I possibly ranks in my top 10 favorite comedies of all-time and definitely in my top 20; this film is the movie writer/director Bruce Robinson made after Withnail and I.  As much as I wanted to absolutely love this movie, I just couldn’t.  It’s not bad, but it’s not nearly the caliber of film his debut effort was.

The film stars Richard E. Grant (from Withnail) as advertising executive Denis Bagley.  In working to come up with a good campaign for a pimple cream, he develops a boil on his shoulder that grows into having a mind and personality of it’s own.  The boil is presented like a devil on the shoulder, whereas Bagley himself begins to develop into the angelic counterpart who begins to have deeply rooted concerns in the wrongdoings of his career.  Eventually, the boil takes over and his head shrinks to the size of a boil, allowing the dark side to take over completely.

Obviously, this film is quite surreal and deeply rooted in dark comedy as well.  It’s also a plain out attack, quite heavy handedly at times, on the advertising industry.  I have agree with some of the points the film makes, but it definitely gets preachy at times for a movie that is supposed to be labeled as entertainment.  As for the story structure, it’s pretty loose.  There are some amazingly funny scenes within the film, but as a whole, it feels disjointed in many ways.

Richard E. Grant, as always, does a great job in the excessively neurotic role as Bagley.  I’ve not seen Grant in much other than this film and Withnail and I, but he definitely has a penchant for playing eccentric characters.  The only other primary character in the film is his wife, who is played by Rachel Ward; she does an acceptable job in the role as a concerned houeswife dealing with her husband’s bizarre eccentricities and rants.

I don’t want to mislead completely, this isn’t a bad film.  However, if you come to this after watching Withnail and I and expect the same level of greatness, then you will be let down.  You have to watch this as a stand alone film and not try to make any comparisons to Robinson’s previous work.  In my opinion, the film is worth watching for Grant’s performance, some of the well-written comedic scenes and, if you hate advertisers, then some of the apocalyptic rants on the evils of advertising.

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