The second series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus featured a sketch where a man waiting for an appointment becomes the centre of a series of improbable accidents. Bits of furniture break, people start to die and eventually the entire house is destroyed. The gag is that the man at the centre of all this doesn’t actually do anything to cause these events – he is simply absurdly unlucky to be present when it all happens. The new Irish film A Film with Me in It takes the core idea of this 1970 sketch and expands it into a feature length film. The hapless man at the centre of this black comedy is Mark (played by comedian Mark Doherty who also wrote the screenplay), an out of work actor who is facing eviction and breaking-up with his girlfriend. His best mate Pierce (fellow comedian and Black Books star Dylan Moran) is his only solace, promising to write a smash-hit film for him to appear in. However, when a freak chain of events results in the bodies starting to pile up, Mark and Pierce find themselves caught up in a situation far more outlandish than anything they could have written.
A Film with Me in It never quite nails its comedic potential. The initial depiction of Mark and Pierce’s down-and-out lives resembles a watered down version of Withnail & I with Moran playing Pierce as a bit of a cross between Withnail and Bernard Black. Moran at least has better material to work with here than he did in Run Fatboy Run but playing the part of a recovering alcoholic with delusions of grandeur is not exactly a stretch for him. Nevertheless, he does deliver the funniest lines in the film. A Film with Me in It improves once it starts delving into its dark humour and making self-aware jokes about how farcical the whole situation is. But overall it is just not brisk enough and it doesn’t sustain the energy required to maintain interest.
The key problem with A Film with Me in It is unfortunately largely to do with the fact that Mark needs to be a completely passive character to facilitate the film’s comedic set-up. Just like the man in the Monty Python sketch, Mark must do nothing in order for the chaos around him to generate the necessary laughs. While this may work for a short sketch it becomes incredibly irritating during the course of an entire film. A Film with Me in It does contain a few decent laughs but it is overall unsatisfying.
Ah, so it’s derived from Monty Python. I can see that now, and that aspect works well. My feeling is that the film pushes events so far that, half way into the film, it’s runs out of anywhere to go. It becomes an excruciating endeavour to pad out the run time for the rest of the film.
I should just clarify that I only mentioned that Monty Python sketch because I couldn’t help but think of it while watching A Film with Me in It. I’ve got no idea if Mark Doherty was aware of that sketch while writing the screenplay but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was even on an subconscious level.
But the point I wanted to make is that such an idea is amusing as a sketch but struggles to go the distance over an entire feature film. As you say, there is only so far that they can go with it and everything else feels like padding.
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