David Brent: Life on the Road (2016) is Ricky Gervais feature film spin-off of The Office, featuring his character David Brent. It’s available on Netflix.
Brent is back. This time, he’s taken out of the office and onto the road in an exceedingly expensive rock-and-roll tour. Without any real friends, he’s paying his bandmates and technician through the nose to keep them around. He even has to pay them to have a drink with him. His shows are poorly attended and his songs unintentionally offensive, but Brent’s ego keeps the tour alive. This sentimental film ends exactly the same way Special Correspondents ended.
There was a lot of buildup to this spin-off slash epilogue to The Office, including a YouTube channel, a soundtrack, and a songbook. Gervais may be reliving his days in a rock band (of course he would include a David Bowie song in his rock-and-roll movie!) or maybe he’s just writing what he knows. They are derivative and often tasteless but also annoyingly catchy. If you’re going to hum one, stick with “Life on the Road” or “Thank Fuck it’s Friday,” not the one that preaches not to kill Native Americans, not to make fun of disabled people, or the tragic Christmas story. This is classic Brent thinking it’s radical to fight prejudices but naively plays into all the stereotypes. He’s so PC, he’s un-PC. Though, is it really Brent or is Gervais using Brent as a mask to get away with his Holy Fook jokes he used to do on the radio to get a rise out of Karl Pilkington?
Stylistically, the film is classic Gervais. It’s shot documentary style like The Office. It has a lot of poor taste jokes said by unreliable characters. It’s also as sentimental as his other films and TV shows. The one gripe I have is that there is no transition from everyone hating Brent to everyone forgiving him. When did their epiphany happen? What did Brent do to gain their sympathy? There’s no breathing room between the scene when Brent decides not to buy fake snow and the scene where the engineer lets loose the fake snow. It makes you wonder what was cut from the script or left on the editing room floor.
I have to say, though, years after The Office, it’s impressive that Gervais is still able to get into this character with what appears to be no effort. Ricky Gervais may not look the same as he did in 2001, but Brent somehow does. I remember seeing Gervais years ago on Inside the Actors Studio and was impressed that all he really has to do is touch his tie and he transforms from actor to character before your eyes.
JAIME POND IS THE EDITOR OF ANGLONERD. SHE HAS ONLY SEEN A COUPLE EPISODES OF THE OFFICE. SHE LIVES AND WORKS IN NYC. FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER.