How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989, Bruce Robinson)

“Masturbating much?”
“Constantly! I have a talking boil on my neck.”

I think I was supposed to watch Withnail & I first, since it’s the one that got all the bonus features on the Criterion disc, but I felt like starting with this one. Somebody I know has warned me about these two movies once… can’t remember who, but anyway I liked this just fine, and will check out Withnail sometime.

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A usually-funny comedy about the advertising business. Dude is high-power ad exec until one troubling assignment to come up with a slogan for a zit cream. He has such trouble that he starts to question the entire practice of advertising… and that’s when a talking boil shows up on his neck, representing his bad ad-man self. It eventually takes over the body (with added mustache) with a good-guy-within boil on HIS neck. A little more gross than the usual angel/devil on your shoulder, but same idea. More anarchist (or communist) speeches (by the good anti-ad-man persona) than in most films. Remember the bizarre animated lovebirds, too.

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Writer/director Bruce Robinson (also wrote The Killing Fields) put together a good comedy, with an excellent lead performance by Richard Grant (Karaoke, some latter Altmans, and Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life).

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Movie feels not like an advertisement but like a political attack, like a speech, but without the actual speeches interrupting the comic flow of things. Energetic and fun(ny), worth watching for sure.

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