Starter for Ten

"Good"

Starter for Ten Review


Using '80s nostalgia and the ever-reliable British love of embarrassment to maximum effect, Starter for Ten is that unusual coming-of-age comedy which manages to locate the occasional bit of funny amidst all the lesson-learning and overcoming of adversity. Also, the filmmakers know that, when in doubt about how to sonically ground scenes of awkward romantic longing and melancholy, round up as many songs by The Cure and The Smiths as possible. It just helps.

Fresh off playing unintentional best buddy to Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, the ever bright-eyed James McAvoy stars here as Brian Jackson, a working-class kid from Essex who's always been on the bookish side -- he and his best mates' habit of listening to Motörhead and drinking lager in public notwithstanding. Out of high school, he scores a place at Bristol University, where, like any good freshman who never thought he'd get into college, he immediately sets to making a fool of himself in front of anybody who happens to be around. This includes the sullenly gorgeous, extremely political and scathingly sarcastic Rebecca Epstein (Rebecca Hall), set up as the dark horse romantic candidate in opposition to the front-runner, Alice, a peppy, rich, troublesome blonde with a tendency to take advantage of guys like Brian with puppy-love crushes.

The motivation, slight as it is, that oddly powers all of this along, is a game show. Brian is a longtime fan of University Challenge, an excruciatingly difficult British version of College Bowl, and intends to get on the school team as a way of proving himself to the memory of his long-dead father (an opening scene shows the two of them watching the show when Brian was a child). The potential for mawkishness inherent in this premise should be well-nigh overwhelming (do it for ol' dad), but fortunately the filmmakers (director Tom Vaughn is a first-timer) exercise a welcome amount of restraint once Brian finally gets his shot at getting on the Bristol team.

There's rarely much drama here as to whether or not Brian will be able to power through his many adversities (loving the wrong girl, showing his posh classmates that a poor Essex kid has what it takes, critical wardrobe mistakes), and it's not just because of the genre's optimistic requirements -- one just can't imagine anybody ultimately saying no for that long to McAvoy. The actor brings such a heady and comic mix of enthusiasm, vulnerability, and endearing intensity to his performance that it's hard to imagine anybody saying no to him for long. His costars are almost all as winning, especially the steely Hall, as well as Dominic Cooper -- playing Spencer, Brian's roughneck best-friend from back home -- who utilizes the same blithely winning arrogance that helped him practically steal the show in the play and film of The History Boys. He almost struts away with this bright and charming film; quite an achievement given how many others are in the process of trying to do the same.

Aka Starter for 10.

I'll have Japan-US Relations for 200, Alex.



Facts and Figures

Box Office Worldwide: $210.1 thousand

Production compaines: Scion Films, BBC Films, HBO Films, Neal Street Productions, Playtone, Scamp Film and Theatre Ltd.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Tom Vaughn

Producer: , , Pippa Harris, , Steve Shareshian

Starring: as Brian Jackson, as Alice Harbinson, as Spencer, as Josh, as Rebecca Epstein, as Lucy Chang, as Des, as Michael Harbinson, Raj Ghatak as Nigel De Havilland, as Julie Jackson, as Patrick Watts, as Bamber Gascoigne

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.