Opening 8 Jul 2010
In this comedy, life is difficult for Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) in a town where everyone always tells the truth. As a short, snubbed-nosed, chubby man who writes about the 14th century for lecture films, the truth hurts. His date tells him that he has no chance; his colleague tells him that he plans to kill himself; the doctor tells him that his mother “will die tonight”; his secretary Shelley (Tina Fey) tells him that no one will miss him after he is fired. The ad on the side of the bus says “PEPSI when you can’t get COKE.” The senior citizens’ home is A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People; the motel is A Cheap Motel for Sex with a Near Stranger. Suddenly a miracle happens. At the bank to withdraw his last $300, the computer is down and instead he withdraws $800 from the trusting bank clerk. From that moment Mark cheats the casino, re-writes the story of the Black Plague to become a best-seller, and tells his mother that there is life after death where she will see the Man in the Sky.
This film, which I saw and enjoyed twice, shines through Gervais’ hesitant smile. A similar film is Pleasantville, in which a whole town changes due to one person’s vision – or, in this case, one person’s singular talent to “say something that isn’t.” Although a certified loser, still, Mark has faith in himself. Soon the entire population has faith in him as he becomes a prophet in a parody of Christianity and the Ten Rules (with a singular opportunity for a surreptitious plug for Pizza Hut). Rob Lowe plays his competitive colleague, Jennifer Garner his girlfriend Anna. See if you recognize Philip Seymour Hoffman and Edward Norton in cameo appearances. Ricky Gervais – a well-known British actor in the TV series The Office – not only starred but also wrote and directed along with Matthew Robinson. In a small, perfect film, the only inconsistency is Gervais’ British accent in rural Massachusetts. (Becky Tan)