Film fanatics and friends Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. At the end of the discussion, the watcher rates the film out of ten for the ‘recommender’. With only one film getting a ’10’ so far, it’s proving to be a tough ask to get full marks.
We have reached week nine and Yasser has chosen one of British cinema’s recent success stories. With Anglo-Pakistani phrasebook in hand, Fred takes the plunge.
You can read the entires from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.
To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.
Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
Fred: This week, Yasser, you gave me ‘Four Lions‘ to watch and you have been pretty keen to find out if I liked it or not.
Yasser: Yeah, it’s one of my favourites… obviously (laughs)
FS: It’s the top comedy in your list. God! I’m in for a serious few weeks! Are you one of those people who thinks comedy films are less ‘worthy’ than dramatic movies?
FS: That’s why they so rarely win the big awards.
YA: They don’t really hit the tone. Prestigious award shows are too serious.
FS: Don’t you think that is wrong, though? A great comedy should be worthy of an award as much as a great drama.
YA: I see your point, but things like The Academy Awards have never been chosen for the people, by the people.
FS: Last comedy to win Best Picture?
YA: No clue… ‘Titanic‘ was a bit of a joke…
YA: ‘Rubber Dinghy Rapids’, rabbits with no ears, classing a Wookie as a bear, Benedict Cumberbatch giving batty chirps, what’s not to like?
FS: I can tell you if you want
YA: (laughs) Oh dear! You’ve been alluding to this question for ages. How do you find ‘Four Lions’?
FS: Chris Morris… he is brilliant. He’s responsible for some of the best comedy on TV and radio in the last 20 years – ‘The Day Today‘, ‘Brass Eye‘, ‘Why Bother?‘, and, a personal favourite, ‘Nathan Barley‘. He is so clever and you feel that, in making something, it’s turned out exactly as he planned it to.
YA: Yes. It’s a controversial topic and he somehow managed to make it into a comedy.
FS: That’s what a great satirist can do. Take a serious event and make it funny without trivialising it.
YA: You are enjoying this – tormenting me.
FS: It would be easy to make a comedy about suicide bombers that was just broad and offensive, and didn’t have anything serious to say about the issue. Chris Morris, though, he has made a comedy on domestic terrorism and, whilst it’s not the funniest film ever, it’s probably as good as a comedy on that subject is going to get. I can’t think of anyone who would have done it better.
YA: Soooooo… you like?
FS: Yes. There are probably three or four REALLY funny moments including the Wookie/ bear debate and Faisal’s (Adeel Akhtar) run through the sheep field. The London Marathon costumes alone are a great idea.
YA: There is something glorious about seeing the Honey Monster and Rafael running down the road together
YA: Who stood out from the cast for you? Most of them aren’t well-known
FS: It would have been a mistake to have cast famous actors in a film like this. It would have made it unreal. To be honest the acting is weak at points with the very notable exception of Riz Ahmed. He’s excellent. He plays it straight which is what the script needs.
FS: A comic actor would have ruined it.
YA: I love Kayvan Novak. I love the ‘child in a grown man’s body’ that he brings
FS: He was okay but no-one stood out for me except Ahmed
YA: Waj (Novak) steals the show, Barry (Nigel Lindsay) second.
FS: A lot of Barry’s bits just didn’t make me laugh. The “bad stuff” in the woods for example. The bit with the MP too.
YA: I think Barry is a sick individual. His ideas are crazy. He’s absolutely bigoted.
FS: I felt, perhaps ironically, that the white character was the one Morris struggled to write the most.
FS: So – I have a question.
YA: I’m fairly open-minded and when I saw the trailer I thought it looked hilarious. All I heard about it was positive things. One of the reasons I love the film is it touches on a sensitive subject and makes it a tragi-comedy.
FS: What else made you pick it?
YA: I know it’s not extraordinary in how it’s shot, but the screenplay, the band of characters, their journey and some individual performances make it a brilliant film for me.
FS: It’s a very good, low-budget, British film. It knows what it wants to be.
YA: Yes. Part of the reason why it’s in my list is because I can relate to it, being a British Muslim. I can rip the piss out of the characters with people from that part of my community. I know people like Waj.
YA: I guess it might be a psychological issue because I don’t watch Bollywood movies anymore. My favourite was ‘Sholay‘.
FS: And is there anything that could have been improved on?
YA: They could have given Faisal more screen time. I thought the ’12 bottles of bleach’ bit was hilarious. I’d have liked him to have been the one to question it, more than Waj.
FS: I mentioned the low-budget before, and that is one of the problems I have with it. I am not expecting film makers to waste money but I wish they had paid ‘Boots’ enough to use the brand name on the shop at the end. It’s a minor problem, but slightly spoils that last scene.
YA: It’ll do. Any other bad points?
FS: The whole Pakistan section didn’t really make me laugh.
YA: It showed how inadequate they were. They didn’t fit in at home of in the training camp. They think they are about to live the dream, but soon find out that none of them are up for the task.
FS: I’d have preferred it to be all in the UK. They should have had no link to any terrorist training or organisation.
YA: I think it was important for Omar (Ahmed) to go away for a while and allow Barry to have a go at leading the group. It created the whole power struggle at the end.
FS: The only other problem was that, whilst there were brilliant moments, it wasn’t as consistently funny as I would have liked. When someone is used to writing for TV, the move to a full-length film can stretch them, no matter how talented they are.
YA: You wanna sum up for me, Fredders?
FS: The ability to make a comedy based on serious subjects without being offensive, bland or trivial is a rare skill, and few people practice it better than Chris Morris. His script has some fantastically funny parts, but doesn’t lose that grip on reality. Okay, the stupidity of the characters is slightly exaggerated, but you still feel they are all real people. There are dull parts and jokes that fall flat and the direction is quite basic, though it doesn’t need to be anything more than that. also Riz Ahmed was the only one of the cast to give a really great performance. He was funny and touching when required.
FS: The best thing about it, though, is that it doesn’t treat the audience as idiots, which a lot of comedies do. I’d rather watch this than the majority of what Hollywood churns out in the pursuit of laughs, so it gets 7/10.
YA: RUBBER DINGHY RAPIDS!
FS: You should be happy with seven as I feel I might be in for a low scoring week.
See how Yasser rates ‘Wild Strawberries’ later this week