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I’m constantly astounded that Ricky Gervais can be so brilliant at creating television but brings so much banality to feature filmmaking. He seems to be incapable of catching that same originality that drew viewers to The Office for more than 30 minutes at a time, save The Invention of Lying, which held out for 60 before limping to its end. Much of his latest feature project, Cemetery Junction, too, is a fairly pointless exercise in predictability.

 

It starts and remains every working class coming of age story of the past few decades. A young man in blue collar England wants to escape the drudgery of his life and the toil of his future. This one even comes with the prerequisite childhood friends who embarrass him and hold him back at the right moments. He turns to life insurance sales and is, of course, smitten with the boss’s daughter. She, of course, is betrothed to the company overachiever, who also happens to be its resident dickhead. Of course. Cemetery Junction hits all the right beats in order. I’ll give it that.

 

It fails to provide much of a reason to care about any of these characters for the first 75 minutes, though. The two friends eventually find their parts fleshed out enough at that point and have a few minutes, the best of the film, to shine. The young man figures out that money isn’t everything, of course, and gets the girl in the end. Don’t even try to call that a spoiler. His shining moment, though, is genuine and unique. He argues that if the girl marries what is essentially her father, she will turn into essentially her mother. I found that refreshingly honest and grounded as movie arguments to break an engagement go. And the mother’s own reaction gave her character a point to exist. The finale of the movie, though, goes right back into the rut it started in, dragging the film full circle.

 

While this may sound very negative, there’s actually nothing wrong with this film. It does everything reasonably well if not excellently. The acting is good, the setting is perfectly dreary and the writing is acceptable if lacking ambition. The movie in general lacks a voice. Even the music, while great songs individually, feels like a Best Of culled from other coming of age films. This film treads some very well worn ground but seems perfectly content to follow the grooves without branching off on its own path at all. 2 stars

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