For those who are regular readers of my blog you will no doubt have seen my review recently of Edgar Wright’s ‘The World’s End’ which I thought was very good. If you’re thinking of seeing the film or have seen it then please read that review, it may prove to be of some use to you. From that review I know some people were surprised that I managed to find so many themes behind it and the deeper meanings just from one screening. But that’s the way I like to look at comedies. It’s all well and good having a film that is funny, the sort of film you can watch and then feel happy after wards. But for me it’s strikes as something quite special when a comedy film manages to grasp that link between making you laugh, and also making you think.
Some of the best comedies I have ever seen are the ones that have a deeper message behind them with themes that resonate in your mind. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy comedies that are made purely to get laughs because there are many of those which I have enjoyed over the years, but it’s the ones that have depth and meaning that really stand out for me. After a good long while thinking I’ve managed to select examples that have really stood out for me, and I’ve done my best not to mention films that I have previously talked about. Ones that sprang to mind instantly were ‘The Angel’s Share’ ‘Is Anybody There?’ and of course my all time favourite ‘Submarine’ but I’ve decided to steer clear of those as a means of not repeating myself and talking about something different.
‘Ruby Sparks’ was one of the first films that sprang to mind when preparing for this post, a film about a man who literally writes a woman into existence and then forms a relationship with her. I viewed the film for inspiration for a script that I’m actually working on at the moment, and after viewing several others I wasn’t holding much hope because of how bad the others were. However, I was completely wrong to judge the film so quickly, it was a genuinely brilliant film. Written very well by one of the main stars Zoe Kazan, I thought the screenplay was very witty and had a certain charm to it, but the story presented the audience with some very interesting ideas based around relationships. There was a lot of underlying messages based on the idea of having the ability to control the person you’re in love with, and the darker power of intervention within a relationship so it was quite a dark spin on the usual romantic comedy and really stood out for me as something special. But then on the other side of the coin there is a lighter touch behind the film, with this idea of ‘if you had the chance to start again, would you take it?’, which gave a more delicate element to the film that showed how it truly managed to grasp both comedy and drama successfully.
Thinking about ‘Ruby Sparks’ made me think about just how far back this message about having the ability to control love dates back to. It had a similar feel to Shakespeare’s classic play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in which humans are subject to the antics of fairies who have love potions that influence their thoughts and change who they desire. As well as being stroke of genius and one of the most magnificent plays ever written is does present the audience with similar themes, this idea of being able to control love and just how risky the effects of this are. With ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ it is used more for comical effect and to enhance the mischievousness of characters such as Puck, whereas in ‘Ruby Sparks’ it is used in a darker way to show the importance of freedom within a relationship. We see the character of Ruby becoming more and more human as she develops and that’s what causes the writer to try and change her which further leads to more problems for him, thus emphasising one the most important ideas of the story; freedom. I was very impressed by the film, it was charming and very well written. It was interesting as well because the things I laughed at in the film, were the things I knew were true, such as just how much a single word can change a person entirely.
The next film I feel I need to talk about is the 2010 film written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant ‘Cemetery Junction’. The film tells the story of three young men growing up in a small part of Reading and how they are all preparing for the separate paths they are going to walk in life. It is a very simple story, but the screenplay is just superb, with laugh out loud laughs, smaller chuckles, and then times were you don’t know whether to gasp or laugh, and so end up doing both at once. The characters for me in this film were very important because they all represented something different and brought their own element to the themes of the film. You’ve got Freddie who wants to build a stable career and settle down as a successful man, Snork who doesn’t really know what he wants other than a nice girl to settle down with, and then Bruce who wants to carry on drinking and fighting as if life isn’t slowly passing him by. The film presented some very interesting themes for me, based around wanting to stay young and the fear of growing up, appreciating your heritage but then also accepting there is a wider world out there, and the most important theme for me was the value of friendship and appreciating just how much someone means to you. It was a feel good comedy that worked perfectly as a drama as well for me showing yet another display of just how talented Gervais and Merchant are at writing, presenting us with strong characters that you love and hate, and also cringe worthy situations that make you feel the embarrassment of the characters. It is an emotional film because of how closely it links to real life but you will finishing watching the film with a smile on your face.
Finally, possibly a less well known film but still one that I would recommend, the 2009 film from Paul King, the director of The Might Boosh ‘Bunny and the Bull’. Now I will say firstly that it’s not for everyone, it has quite obscure humour, just like The Mighty Boosh and is quite an artistic film so it may be a little too far outside the ball park for some people, for me it was a terrific film. It tells the story of two friends, Stephen and Bunny, who embark from their flat in London on a journey around Europe. There’s a very good contrast between the two main characters, Stephen is the shy man who wants a relationship and a well structured life, and then Bunny who just wants money and to have a good time in life regardless of consequences. They both have their own connections in terms of love, Stephen tries too hard and gets nowhere, Bunny is his usual self and ends up with women either way so there is a clear contrast and it makes you think ‘why on earth are these two friends?’. The story is very well written, with a clever narrative all the way through of Stephen recounting his journey with Bunny but then at the same time being afraid to leave his flat, leading to the explanation at the end which I shant give away. Once again it was a film that presented some very interesting themes based around the value of friendship and cherishing the years you spend with your friends, and also the idea of going out to see different parts of the world. But then this film also had some quite deep psychological themes linked to dealing with stresses and moving on from troubled times. The film is initially charming and very funny but then takes a serious turn, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing because it shows a perfect balance between comedy and pathos.
I would recommend any of these films, not only to those interested in films but to those who just want a good film to watch, they are all very good. I was pleasantly surprised when all of them turned out to be brilliant so they are well worth a watch. They all work perfectly as comedies and as dramas so they offer something different for everyone. For me they are perfect examples of comedies with layers and depth because they are successful at making me laugh but then have meanings that link to wider themes so they are thought provoking and engaging.
As always please feel free to leave any comments, either about the topic or about the films mentioned. In particular here I would like to know any comedies that you felt as layers to them and why, I’m interested to see what other people have to say about this topic.
Until the next time I’d like to leave you with a quote from ‘Cemetery Junction’ that is quite thought provoking and one of the best quotes from the film;
“What if the world is having another party and we’re missing it because we’re stuck here?”