David Brent: Life on the Road – ‘Mockumentary’ television goes to the big screen

David Brent, Ricky Gervais’ famous character, was the heart of the BBC’s timeless classic ‘mockumentary’, The Office. For many Brits the character perfectly exemplified the worst of office behaviour and the egotistical bosses out there. So 15 years later why did Gervais revive such a character?

David Brent (Ricky Gervais) is now a sales rep for a cleaning company but also a rock star on the side, out of his own pocket though.

Gervais directed and wrote the film on his own, without help of his friend and co-writer of The Office, Stephen Merchant. This led to some suggesting the film was surely a chance to make money for Gervais using the name of character considered one of the best in British comedy since Basil Fawlty. However, Gervais was quoted as saying this film was not simply a sequel to The Office which followed Wernham Hogg paper merchants but an exploration of character considered a British icon and using him as a vehicle to explore dreams and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

[…] the film is fresh and does not wreak of the usual cash grabbing odour that lingers around films these days.

In many ways the only real indication David Brent: Life on the Road is connected to The Office is the brief mention of it when Brent discusses his mental health over the last 15 years affected by the BBC 2 documentary. As a ‘mockumentary’ the film thus fits in interviews with those exposed to Brent, emulating how The Office explored emotions and the hypocrisy between what people say and think. In Life on the Road this reveals a lot about the deep failings in Brent’s life, sadly though they trample over the legacy of The Office somewhat which left Brent as a reformed man only for 15 years later a 90 minute film having to do the same thing again.

But in-spite of unpicking this good ending from the series the film is fresh and does not wreak of the usual cash grabbing odour that lingers around films these days. The original soundtrack is testament to the effort put into this film by Gervais, suggesting either his commitment to making this project a success or an indication of his egotism. This film could be accused of being self serving given the collaboration with Chris Martin on the soundtrack, the tour of the band ‘Forgone Conclusion’ that went with the release and Gervais’ centrality.

But, this film cannot be simplified as a vanity project or cash crab effort. The commitment to the ‘mockumentary’ format shows how much Brent has become a favourite of Gervais and the British people who, after seeing Brent in Comic Relief singing ‘Equality Street’, cannot be blamed for wanting more of an insight into the life of such an “ordinary, extraordinary man”.

By Arran Byers

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