Saturday, 17 October 2015

Peckham wry: "Superbob"

You can feel the modest indie comedy Superbob drawing upon all its reserves to trick out to feature length a central idea - superhero's day off - which might have sustained an ad campaign and, in fact, did sustain an earlier short film, again directed by Jon Drever and starring Brett Goldstein. The set-up's nicely brisk: after a meteorite strikes Peckham, special powers are bestowed upon perhaps the least likely (and suitable) recipient - a postman named Bob (Goldstein), a drippy dullard with no social skills who can barely end a phone call or Ministry of Defence meeting without feeling a need to apologise to someone. As a fly-on-the-wall documentary crew tail him, his interactions reveal a number of concerns that may very well tessellate with those of the writer-director: Bob has a weird obsession with finding the right gas provider, winds up - this being a very British superhero movie - having to do a lot more admin than Batman or Spider-Man had to concern themselves with, attends to a frail mother (Ruth Sheen) who wants to see him paired off with someone nice, engages in light flirtation with his Spanish cleaner (Natalia Tena), and betrays a nerdy anxiety around the gorgeous librarian he's somehow managed to land a date with (Laura Haddock).

There are limitations: maybe the mock-doc format is skewing it, but Goldstein's schtick lands at the midpoint of Office-era Ricky Gervais and Martin Freeman - the kind of wheedling that's become the default setting for performers who haven't entirely found their own comic voice - and there's a lot of improvisational watertreading in the hope the cast will stumble onto flickers of wit that aren't always present in the script. Likewise, it hasn't quite got the budget to deliver the finale it perhaps wants to, instead holing up in and around Sheen's care home for a stand-off that involves a whole lot of chatter and a Rob Curling cameo. For all that, it's very appealingly shot by Mattias Nyberg (Ollie Kepler's Expanding Purple World) in bright pastel shades, and Drever makes a good deal of both his bigger set-pieces (Bob makes an absolute hash of a senior-citizens' anniversary speech) and whatever special effects he has to hand (two lovers caught mid-dance, elevating a single foot off the floor). It's nothing to get the Marvel suits too worried, certainly, but a genial calling card for a filmmaker to be offering: all being well within the industry, we'll almost certainly see more from Drever, and perhaps more from Goldstein, too.

Superbob is now playing in selected cinemas, ahead of its DVD release on Monday.   

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