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|How to Stop Being a Loser
dir Dominic Burns
scr Chris Grezo, Rupert Knowles
prd Dominic Burns, Billy Murray, Simon Phillips, Patricia Rybarczyk, Jonathan Sothcott
with Simon Phillips, Craig Conway, Gemma Atkinson, Colin Salmon, Stephanie Leonidas, Chris Grezo, Martin Compston, Dominic Burns, Martin Kemp, Billy Murray, Neil Maskell, Richard E Grant
release UK 18.Nov.11
Another failed conquest: Phillips (right)
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
This British rom-com has enough energy to keep us watching even though it's not particularly funny or romantic. Fortunately there are enough bright sparks in the cast to distract us from the simplistic script and over-egged direction.
James (Phillips) is a geeky misfit who has a sign above his head saying "loser". Literally. After his friend Ian (Grant) commits suicide, he receives a message from him that challenges him to learn how to talk to women. His friends (Leonidas and Grezo) encourage him to try, starting with an awkward chat at Ian's funeral with his school crush Hannah (Atkinson). He then starts a mentorship with cocky motivational speaker Ampersand (Conway), a disciple of womanising writer guru Zeus (Kemp). But this will require changing almost everything about himself.
The film is framed with scenes of James recounting his story to his therapist (Salmon), cutting to flashbacks that are bullet-pointed with chapter headings, self-help tips and montage sequences. This structure is more like a sit-com than a movie, as James goes through a variety of embarrassing situations even though we know who he has in mind and where he'll end up. As things progress, James develops some confidence but can never get past his desperate-nerd persona, so his constant moronic behaviour always feels contrived for the camera.
The film has a bright and comical tone that's watchable when actor-director Burns encourages his actors to do something a bit subtle. But much of the comedy and plotting are punched so hard that it comes across as more pathetic than humorous. Phillips plays James as a Ricky Gervais-style jerk who laughs annoyingly at his own jokes. Along with the rest of the cast, he overplays almost every scene while managing to inject a bit of charm here and there.
In comparison to the similarly themed Crazy, Stupid, Love, this feels painfully thin, packed with random scenes that continually stop any forward momentum. The female roles are so underwritten that the film feels deeply misogynistic, while James isn't much more than a caricature of a clueless guy with no social skills. At least the starry British cameos keeps us chuckling through every silly gyration of the plot.
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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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