UK Release Date: 10th December 2018
Runtime: 98 minutes
Director: Iain Morris
Writer: Keith Akushie, Joe Parham
Starring: Joe Thomas, Hannah Tointon, Hammed Animashaun, Claudia O’Doherty, Hugh Coles, Kurt Yaeger, Jemaine Clement, Emma Rigby, Nick Frost, Noel Fielding, Theo Barklem-Biggs, Lizzy Connolly
Synopsis: Just weeks after losing his girlfriend at graduation, a socially awkward young guy tries to have fun at a summer music festival, until his ex shows up.
Almost nobody bothered to see The Festival when it opened in the UK this summer. With everything but The Inbetweeners logo and theme tune in place to link it to that TV and movie phenomenon, it seemed bizarre that this film was met with such a shrug by British cinemagoers. That’s especially surprising given the simple fact that the film is very, very funny indeed. Now that it is arriving on disc format, it will hopefully be able to find the audience that its mad comedy approach deserves.
We meet Joe Thomas‘s character, who is called Nick but is essentially just Simon with slightly less pointy hair, as he ejaculates on to his own graduation gown after having sex with Hannah Tointon‘s character. She’s called Caitlin, but is essentially just Tara with a posher group of friends. The jizz on his gown is soon the least of Nick’s worries, because Caitlin breaks up with him at the ceremony and he has a mental breakdown on stage. Having already agreed to go to a festival that summer with best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun), Nick is worried about what will happen if he bumps into Caitlin and her privileged buddies.
The setup is vintage Inbetweeners and director Iain Morris isn’t flexing many new muscles behind the camera here. However, the comedy beats land hard thanks to the committed cast, with stand-up comedian Claudia O’Doherty making a huge impact as a lonely festival goer, who quickly bonds with Animashaun’s innately likeable Shane – a brilliantly joyful foil for Thomas’s uptight killjoy.
The Festival essentially unfolds as a series of comedic set pieces, from a wild evening of partying with a girl dressed as a smurf to a bizarre druid wedding taking place in the woods. But the unifying factor across almost all of these segments – perhaps with the exception of the aforementioned wedding – is that they reflect exactly the experience of a music festival in the UK. It’s a world of excitement and implied coolness that ultimately manifests in waterlogged fields, hideous toilet cubicles and dodgy narcotics.
Morris is never attempting to make music festivals seem in any way glamorous or appealing. This festival is hell on Earth, particularly for Nick who is a complete fish out of water, troubled by his own failings and the fact his ex is shacking (or tenting?) up with a one-legged music manager known as The Pirate. Just as in The Inbetweeners, this is the story of an audience surrogate character suffering repeated romantic and personal indignities. It’s not an original idea, but it’s one that works because the jokes and the set pieces land as well as they do.
The credit for this must largely be placed at the door of the cast. Supporting performers like Noel Fielding and Nick Frost are memorable in cameos, while Jemaine Clement steals every scene in which he appears as Animashaun’s try-hard stepdad. This is Joe Thomas’s movie, though, and a showcase for his truly admirable willingness to do absolutely anything in search of a laugh. His clothes come off, his body is torn apart and he is utterly humiliated frequently. But he does it for us.
Pretty slim pickings! Just a VFX breakdown.
Pop or Poop?
With the comedic juggernaut of Joe Thomas and his lack of dignity at its heart, The Festival is another Britcom hit for Inbetweeners creator Iain Morris. The characters are colourful and exaggerated, but ultimately believable, and the near-dystopian depiction of music festival life will chime with the experiences of many who have found these events are not all they are cracked up to be. There’s also a scene where a nipple ring gets caught on a fence, so something for everyone, as always.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
The Festival is available on DVD and Blu-ray now, courtesy of EFD.