REVIEW: The Festival

August 14, 2018

Director: Iain Morris
Screenplay: Joe Parham, Keith Akushie
Starring: Joe Thomas, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O'Doherty, Jemaine Clement, Hannah Tointon, Emma Rigby
Runtime: 98 Minutes




Coming to us from the creators of The Inbetweeners, directed by Ian Morris who last directed the surprisingly decent sequel back in 2014, The Festival feels a little unstuck in time with its presentation and execution. It's harking back to a time closer to the start of this recent decade of adolescent cringe comedy, and awkward conversations steeped in the conventions of social frictions and public anxieties, that so helped to define their particular oeuvre concerning a particular cultural point in early 21st century millennial life.


It's a slow chart of progression for actor Joe Thomas, who made his name playing a petulant teenager in The Inbetweeners, to a university student in Fresh Meat and now as recent graduate Nick here. Who faces a crisis point upon being dumped by his first girlfriend Caitlin (Hannah Tointon) on graduation day, and goes off with pal Shane (Hammed Animashaun) and Aussie backpacker Amy (Claudia O'Doherty) to an unnamed music festival as a blowout before their lives begin proper.


The film isn't really as focuses in those coming-of-age and arrested development factors as much as in their previous world, instead choosing to revel in the atmosphere of the British summer festival scene and all the strange clinical weirdness and anachronisms that can be mined from such a location, and the eclectic groups drawn to such events (incidentally, parts of the film were shot during Leeds Festival 2017 for a reference point).


Its setup is strong enough, with the main conflict coming from both former partners being present at the same festival with their pretentious friends, and the fact that Nick has to kind of get over himself in order to move on and to stop focusing on looking for new prospective partners to fill the gap. 


How that ultimately ends up playing out is kind of a symptom of the films incredibly lacklustre final scenes that end up delivering a bit of a non-ending, with the film running out of steam before the runtime is finished and chooses to waste its potential on a wild farce that gets increasingly unrealistic when compared to its mostly down-to-earth tone.


That being said, the majority of the film that precedes this bum note finish is pretty consistently funny and creative. Making as much use out of the setting as they can on a budget, it's sequences, back-and-fourths and gags end up delivering where they count by exploiting the middle-class debauchery of its core characters. Including a run in with Druids, awkward living situations and a mid-film change of pace where the narrative becomes more of a Dude, Where's My Car? recollection of events as Nick searches for a girl dressed like a Smurf. 


This particularly has one of the most surprisingly blunt but refreshing payoffs for Nick (even if it's slightly undercut by the final note), as well as an extended gut-buster of a surrealist fantasy sequence that's probably the funniest scene of any mainstream comedy film this summer.


The cast is very good, too. Joe Thomas can play this kind of role in his sleep even in his early-30s. Hammed Animashaun is humbling as his best friend, but it's Australian actress and writer Claudia O'Doherty who steals the show at every turn as the motor-mouthed tagalong loner who attaches herself to them, and her strangely hilarious diction at points gives her so much character and warmth. There's also a decent supporting cast of Noel Fielding, Nick Frost and Jemaine Clement who shine in their smaller roles.


The jokingly put it, The Festival is the best comedy of summer 2011. But that's not the damning statement it sounds like, nor the heartiest of endorsements for a British comedy flick arriving in the later days of the season. It works where it needs to even with pacing issues, a few gags at outstay their welcome and a flop of a climax, but it's cast are colourful and the direction is lively, proving that there is still some life left in The Inbetweeners crew yet.


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