Starter for 10

2008-06-02 08:35
What it's about:

Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) has always wanted to be clever, and when he's accepted to the posh Bristol University he finally gets to live the life of an academic. It isn't long before Brian joins the varsity's team that'll take part in his favourite quiz show – University Challenge – and falls in love with his glamorous teammate Alice (Alice Eve). But while Brian manages to ignore the scoffs at his working-class background made by his snobbish peers, he can't ignore the rift his preppy new life is creating between himself and his best friend Spencer (Dominic Cooper).

What we thought of it:

Starter for 10 takes place during the time of mixtapes, ghetto blasters and free-Mandela marches. But while the title may imply the preparation of hors d'oeuvres for 10 dinner guests, it's actually the catch phrase from the popular British television quiz show University Challenge, which some academics throughout the 80s saw as a right of passage.

The story was adapted by David Nicholls from his 2003 novel of the same name. Nicholls amends the first person narration by Brian's character relatively adequately into a character driven screenplay with minimal voice-over. He pulls Brian's omnipresent commentary into a third person universal experience all 20-somethings can identify with: Trying to fit into a world where you're not too sure you belong.

Starter for 10 broaches the subject of social pedigrees, but it only skims the surface of the class struggle issue. Director Tom Vaughan gets too caught up in the love triangle to really give politics his full attention.

The all-British cast is refreshing, with James McAvoy taking time away from Hollywood blockbusters (The Last King of Scotland, Becoming Jane and Atonement) to entertain us as the knowledge-hungry, working-class freshman. But watch out for Mark Gatiss as the meticulous live quizmaster Bamber Gascoigne – Soli Philander and Ed Jordan could learn a thing or two from him.

If you need a break from the flashy big-budget blockbusters and are looking for a minimalist dramedy that'll tickle your funny bone, Starter for 10 is modest and unobtrusive.

- Megan Kakora

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A funny little adaptation of a modest novel that's an 80s flashback. Take a trip back in time to mullets, ghetto blasters and University Challenge.

Jimmy Lithgow 2008/04/15 5:49 PM
GREAT PERFORMANCES ALL ROUND Modest and unobtrusive is about right, in summing up this sometimes beguiling comedy but the acting was well worth the price of admission. McAvoy is a dazzling actor, who seems to bring total conviction to anything he plays, but he gets wonderful support from Benedict Cumberbatch, as the pompous and rather dim quiz team captain, and there's are standout performances by Catherine Tate, as the lead character's mother and Dominic Cooper (last seen as the flashy Dakin, in "The History Boys") as his best friend. Spencer. There's some good work, too, by Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall, as the completely contrasting objects of Brian's affection. And yes, Mark Gatiss is priceless as Bamber Gascoigne. In fact, he's almost better than the real thing! watch out, too, for the artfully concealed Charles Dance and Lindsay Duncan in an hilarious nude scene.
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