Thursday, April 3, 2014

Movie with Abe: Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge
Directed by Declan Lowney
Released April 4, 2014

Sometimes, it’s hard to decide how to approach a film. Its plot may be easy to describe, but its tone and overall themes can be much more difficult to unpack. That’s certainly the case with “Alan Partridge,” the indescribable new film from prolific Irish director Declan Lowney written by a team of writers whose past credits include “Borat” and “In the Loop.” Steve Coogan, who was also involved with the script, stars as an eccentric radio host who spends the majority of the film whose title bears his name acting as a negotiator for Pat, a laid-off host at his station and the police handling the hostage situation Pat has created.

It’s never quite clear just who Alan Partridge is, and the film offers many possible answers, all of which add together up to a peculiar whole. At the start of the film, the radio station is being bought up by a bigger company, which spells uncertainty for the future of some of its more senior employees. A nervous Pat encourages Alan to make an appeal for him to be kept on, but Alan, in the midst of talking up Pat, realizes that it’s either him or Pat, and throws him under the bus. Pat is unaware that Alan is the one who sealed his fate, which is the only reason that Alan ends up being positioned as Pat’s one friend and possible ally when he takes the station by storm.

There is an obvious darkness to the events of “Alan Partridge,” as the sound of gunfire and the sight of scared hostages trapped by a man holding a gun conjure up fearsome memories of recent real-life events. Yet this film treats the subject with occasional seriousness, but more often by looking at it through the very singular eyes of Alan. Because his career is based on his voice and his sense of humor, Alan treats it as such. The hostages, the police, and the public are his listeners, and his situation is his platform. Fortunately, Alan taking center stage means Steve Coogan taking center stage, which is never a bad thing.

Coogan starred in last year’s “The Look of Love” as the British equivalent of Hugh Hefner, and here he gets to be less charismatic and more awkward, but equally theatrical. He’s well-matched by Colm Meaney of “Hell on Wheels” and “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” as the maniacal but focused Pat. It’s really a two-man show, and it’s often as if the rest of the characters don’t exist. There are moments where Alan’s imagination gets the best of him, and there’s a glimpse of what this film could have been if it wasn’t so grounded in being literal, an approach that doesn’t work perfectly given the nature of the material.


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