Wednesday 15 August 2018

"The Festival" (Guardian 14/08/18)

The Festival ***
Dir: Iain Morris. With: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty, Hannah Tointon. 98 mins. Cert: 15

Director Iain Morris first enlivened this quiet-to-dead corner of the cinematic silly season with his astonishingly successful Inbetweeners diptych. Having packed those boys off with a happy ending (stop sniggering), he now attempts something only slightly different: bussing Joe Thomas – perhaps the most immediately available ‘Tweener – and a grab-bag of emergent talent to the Leeds Festival to recreate this muddily parochial rite-of-passage for an audience too young, too late or too worldly-wise to snap up day passes for this year’s festivities. Chasing the yoof pound this flagrantly is always a risk, as those of us who suffered The Bad Education Movie can attest, yet Morris’s pursuit remains broadly likable, and he again backs it up with real comedy nous.

This filmmaker is now so confident that he can toss off a genre-regulation misdirected-ejaculate gag within the first two minutes – what we might call a coarse record – to get onto matters besides. Nudging Thomas’s twerpish Nick towards self-knowledge after a graduation humiliation is the main event, but The Festival gets there by setting disparate, sometimes random, mostly winning ideas (jolly druids!) crowdsurfing. Morris has a knack of pushing a joke just far enough that the stretching itself becomes funny. Disproportionately devoted dad Jemaine Clement performs an agonising three-point-turn to the strains of Crowded House; Theo Barklem-Biggs’ arch-caner Gordy does one big ketamine hit, then spends the rest of the film yammering in holes.

If Morris’s framing still resembles an extended E4 special – drizzly medium shots predominate, distinguishing the British festival experience from ultra-glam Coachella – the consolation is that he fills the screen with people you’d happily share a yurt with. Thomas, who spent the entire Inbetweeners project quietly mastering the playing of sexual frustration, deserves the Robin Askwith Prize for self-abasing nudity; he builds a nice, easy double-act with baffled wingman Hammed Animashaun, particularly when replaying Magic Mike with wellies; and Claudia O’Doherty, whose spacey-perky rhythms elevated Judd Apatow’s Netflix series Love, is a genuine ray of sunshine as a fellow traveller the pair encounter en route. Very soon, O’Doherty will be the headline act in comedies like these, but this good-natured crowdpleaser generously lets her steal whole stretches for now.

The Festival is now showing in cinemas nationwide.

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