With due respect to acquaintances with the name, fears that the British film industry has become a playground for the upper-middle classes aren't likely to be much allayed by a film calling itself Rupert, Rupert & Rupert. (Nor, indeed, by the presence of a Pandora and a Daisy amid its cast list.) Father and son Mick and Tom Sands have here arrived at one of those self-produced brainscramblers we'd maybe thought were being weeded out of the release schedules, a film that has the honourable idea of exploring the stretch of hinterland separating creativity from mental illness, but which proves unfit for purpose on a scene-by-scene basis, and in places irresponsibly bad. Its set-up - struggling actor with multiple personality disorder comes off his meds at the exact moment he lands the lead role in a lost Christopher Marlowe play - is promising, in an early Farrelly brothers sort of way, and it's vaguely witty that one of the three Ruperts unleashed should be a ranting loon who meshes well with the Elizabethan vengeance tragedy, if not his castmates. Yet at every turn the execution proves more strange than funny or revealing: I'd challenge anyone not associated with the production to watch more than five minutes without developing a furrow in their brow the size of the Grand Canyon. (And if they're still watching at the entirely-WTF introduction of a publication titled Child Bodybuilding, I'd advise them to hold onto their heads, lest the questions of taste and intent being raised pop their skulls open altogether.)
The usual technical limitations of the poverty-row Britpic are front, centre and very much in your face: Rupert's bedsit, with its close-ups of used condoms stuck to the pillows, is an unnecessarily dismal and dead-end location, and even when the Sands relocate to the theatre, matters don't noticeably improve, a camera set up on some temporary seating wobbling whenever characters walk past. The theatreland setting, however, is but a proscenium arch enabling hyperventilating leading man Sandy Batchelor to quiver, howl at the moon, go apeshit on the one item of furniture the budget allows for, and gaze lasciviously at the supporting actresses reduced to their underwear by a plot device apparently sourced from Patrick Stewart in Extras. It is just possible that Rupert's haphazard progress towards something like happiness was intended as a sincere comment on the difficulties faced by those living with this condition, and perhaps on the levels of abuse that have traditionally been tolerated behind the scenes of showbusiness in the pursuit of high art and great truth. On screen, however, it registers as a mostly exhausting acting showcase, and a piddling members-bar joke that lands somewhere between fluffed and utterly misdirected.
Rupert, Rupert & Rupert opens in selected cinemas from today.