Sunday, October 13, 2013
Alan Partridge Alpha Papa (2013) New York Film Festival 2013
The long gestating Alan Partridge movie has finally arrived and it made it’s US debut at the New York Film Festival and in many ways we are all better for it.
Alan Partridge was birthed almost 20 years ago on the very funny short lived The Day Today. Steve Coogan’s creation made such a huge splash that he survived the demise of the series to landed to a series of TV series and specials over the intervening decades. Coogan wisely kept Partridge’s appearances to a minimum which prevented an over saturation of the market (though Coogan remarked that he can only do Partridge occasionally because doing any sort of show special or movie is the same as being locked up with the real Partridge for several months, which he says is a very unpleasant experience.)
The plot of the film has Partridge working the midday shift at low level Norfolk radio station. The station has just been bought by a huge conglomerate called Shape. Everyone is afraid for their job, in particular Partridges friend and the overnight DJ played by Colm Meaney. Partridge tells Meaney not to worry about it and that he would talk to the powers that be and make sure he stays on, however when he finds out that either he or Meaney will get the boot he helps to push his friend out the door. Distraught, Meaney takes matters into his own hands and returns to the station during a party and takes hostages. Unaware that his friend has sold him down the river Meaney asks that Partridge be the intermediary. What follows is the movie and its damn funny.
I am not a Partridge fan. To be completely honest the only reason I went to the press screening was I wanted to see Steve Coogan in person. Coogan is a very funny man and when he loses the mannerisms and disappears into his characters (like in the recent Look of Love) he is one of the best actors working today. It was this ability to transform into a character and not lean on shtick that made the Partridge movie so much fun. Finally Partridge is a real person and not a caricature, and it’s because Coogan has softened his character that the film works so well. You don't mind being with him for 90 minutes.
I really liked this film a great deal. I liked that it took a character I never really liked and turned him into someone I would gladly hang out with for the course of a film. I also like that the film is not typically British in in its humor. This is not the sort of film that people who don't like British comedy are going to turn away, its a a film that funny because it's funny. Anything British are references to the fact it's set in England.
One of the really happy surprises of the New York Film Festival and a film I would gladly pay to see again and to get on DVD.