Mark Reviews Movies

Alan Partridge


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Declan Lowney

Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meaney, Felicity Montagu, Tim Key, Anna Maxwell Martin, Darren Boyd, Simon Greenall, Nigel Lindsay, Dustin Demri-Burns, Monica Dolan, Phil Cornwell

MPAA Rating: R (for language, brief violence and nudity)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 4/4/14 (limited); 4/25/14 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 25, 2014

One imagines Alan Partridge's inner monologue to be a flurry of first-person pronouns—always the singular and only the plural when absolutely necessary. Everything is about him. It doesn't even matter if, as the situation is in Alan Partridge, other people's lives are in danger. He'll always be looking for an angle, and that angle always aims back at him.

The man is an egomaniac of the unapologetic variety. That's primarily because he wouldn't even think of apologizing for who he is; such a thought likely would be akin to a robot trying to consider a logical paradox. Beyond that, he's too busy thinking about himself to consider what others might think of him. He is his own biggest fan, and there are no lengths to which he won't go to make sure he knows it.

The character, originally a creation of Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Patrick Marber, and Peter Baynham for a BBC Radio show, has been through plenty of career lows and in-his-mind-only highs on the radio, on television, and back on the radio again. "I haven't been off the telly that long," he scolds a police officer who has the gumption to ask, "Who are you?"  If Alan Partridge knows who he himself is, everyone else should, too, and if you don't know who Alan Partridge is, that's your problem. It's not because he isn't famous; it's because that poor sap doesn't recognize greatness when it's standing before him.

We learn a lot about Alan, played with slimy—in a relatively innocent way but slimy nonetheless—relish by Coogan, in the early scenes of the film through expository dialogue and throway gags. The most telling may be his car. It's an economy compact that he drives with driving gloves because, in his mind, that's what cool people wear while driving. If he's driving his little car on the motorway to go work the afternoon shift at a little radio station in North Norfolk, he's going to do it like the cool guy he knows he is. Why should he care about silly a thing like context when it comes to style?

Anyway, the car is a rolling advertisement with a decal on the driver's door stating that Alan Partridge drives this car. It would be easy to downplay the joke as a way of showing that Alan is a sell-out, but there's a subtle nuance to the gag.  It's not the fact that he drives an advertisement that's important. It's that he drives an advertisement with his endorsement. He's not promoting the car; he's promoting the idea that he's important enough to endorse a product.

We also learn that Alan legally changed his name to "Alan, Alan Partridge," and our minds immediately imagine a moment where Alan realized there may be other Alan Partridges out there in the world. The only defense against such a slight to his name is to change it, to reassert it, and to insist that everyone knows that he's the real Alan, Alan Partridge. After all, there's a comma in his legal name.

Everything points to a man whose situational awareness has been constricted by decades of believing that the world revolves around him. That existence catches up to him—though, of course, he tries to ignore that his behavior is in any way a cause of what unfolds—after the radio station he works for is picked up by a corporate entity looking to "rebrand."

His colleague Pat (Colm Meaney) is afraid he's about fired, so in an act of outward selflessness that quickly turns into one of pure selfishness, Alan storms into the boardroom to try to save Pat's job (to make himself look like a good person). That is until he notices a paper that makes it clear the decision of whom to terminate has come down to a choice between Pat and Alan, at which point Alan starts listing all of Pat's downsides. In case they don't catch on to his "subtle" suggestion, he literally writes out his point in big letters.

Pat, carrying a shotgun, later crashes an office party celebrating the corporate takeover, and Alan narrowly escapes, courageously abandoning all of his co-workers (but not before accidentally walloping his on-air sidekick, played by Tim Key, and leaving him unconscious on the floor) to report the hostage situation to the police. They decide Alan is the perfect man to help facilitate negotiations with Pat.

From the information the film reveals about Alan, we already know this is a really bad idea, and the screenplay (by Neil Gibbons, Rob Gibbons, Coogan, Iannucci, and Baynham) has a lot of fun discovering just how many ways this is a really, really bad idea. That Alan was directly responsible for Pat's firing is the least problematic part of the plan. That he's a coward is getting closer to the target (There's a moment where Pat leaves his shotgun unattended, and we can see the gears turning behind Alan's eyes as he tries to work out if taking advantage of the most opportune chance to be a hero he'll have is worth the possibility that he'll have to put in some actual effort to do so). That he's pretty dumb is getting warmer still. That he's more concerned with how this scenario could further his career than the possible consequences of a hostage situation is about as close to splitting the arrow as anyone could get.

The film gets it, and more importantly, so does Coogan, whose lived-in performance ensures that every tic registers in a tangible way (Watch how we can see the moment, after noticing how an off-handed joke lands with the onlookers who have gathered around the station, that he decides to turn a negotiation session into a stand-up comedy act). Alan Partridge recognizes and portrays this man as the shameless, oblivious scoundrel that he is, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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