Cemetery Junction (US - BD)
Gabe enjoys Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant's trip back to the 1970s...
It’s the early 1970s Freddie Taylor (Christian Cooke) longs to escape his working class British town, and takes a job as a door to door life insurance salesman. His two best friends, Bruce (Tom Hughes) and Snork (Jack Doolan), take offense to his newfound high class aspirations, and do just about everything they can to keep him a post-juvenile delinquent. While struggling to keep his job, Freddie runs into his old school sweetheart Julie (Felicity Jones), who not only happens to be the daughter of his boss (Ralph Fiennes), but is also engaged to marry his assigned mentor Mike (Matthew Goode).
Cemetery Junction covers the usual early adulthood problems set up by films like The Graduate, while also filling out the usual nostalgia niche, and covering the underlying class issues that define the ‘coming of age’ sub-genre. It’s all a bit too on the nose, and recognizable for big praise, but it serves a purpose, and is generally better made than the usual trip down memory lane. If the whole thing reminds you a bit of a rock and roll song you might want to keep in mind that Springsteen’s ‘Thunder Road’ was apparently a major influence on the writing. Writer/Directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant discuss their intent of recreating the memory of the era a lot during this disc’s extra features, which makes it quite difficult to criticize the lack of originality. Based on intent the film and story are successful, but I’m not sure we really need another riff on Rebel without a Cause. The coming of age parts of the story never quite gel with the more typical Gervais/Merchant storytelling/awkward comedy stylings, but it’s actually nice to stop the sad trudge every once and a while for a fat joke. More surprising are the genuinely affecting the emotional climaxes that close out the film. Somehow the tear jerking, aww moments work in spite of the blatant familiarity.
Minor quibbles aside, Cemetery Junction is a logical extension of the team’s popular television work, and much more in line with what I’d like to expect from Gervais than the vast majority of his American film work. The Office and Extras both feature pretty rough dramatic tension, and affecting character moments, which is consistently missing from stuff like Ghost Town. The characterizations are relatively realistic, if not a bit heightened, and teeter between silly and dramatic as roughly as the plotting. Again, there’s something charming in this shaky truce between idealistic nostalgia, and piss-taking comedy. The lead performances, all from relatively unknown actors, are strong, especially Tom Hughes, who starts the film a bit of a prick, and grows to the most touching emotional climax. The more star-studded supporting players are cast to type, and fill it well, except Emily Watson, whose heart-breaking portrayal of the broken down Mrs. Kendrick is really not like anything I’ve ever seen from the actress.
With what I’m guessing was more than a little help from ace cinematographer Remi Adefarasin, Gervais and Merchant have crafted a very handsome motion picture, and this 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer is as perfect a representation as we could expect. The film’s look fully embraces the period, right down to some post production tampering to exact the look of older film. Outside shots are slightly blown out and yellow tinted, while interiors are generally softer, and defined more by each location’s production design style. Black and white levels are very strong, but contrast levels are on the softer side, with really smooth gradations. The softer contrast doesn’t hurt the detail levels, and neither does the fact that close-ups are the exception rather than the rule. The image is sharp without any major digital artefacts or halos, and element separation is effective without colour bleeding. The palette is very eclectic, changing from room to room, including browns, reds, greens, blues and yellows. Wardrobe often bounces sharply against the softer background hues, and look rather impressive in both solid and patterned forms.
I’ve come to expect so little from independent dramadies in the audio arena, but this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack earns its keep on a regular basis. The mix isn’t too showy, but there are some sonically powerful moments dribbled over the whole of the production. Every time we enter the factory every channel is overwhelmed with the nearly deafening sound of whirring and grinding machines, and often the sound subtly rises in volume to a silent crescendo. These scenes, along with any scene that features a big musical presence, are quite loud, but they never peak, or feature any high end distortion. Important dialogue isn’t overwhelmed either. The most indelible moment of sound design comes at the end of the second act. Our ‘heroes’ enter a dance club where a live band blasts heavy funk music that moves directionally throughout the channels. Following a photo montage a character decides to start a fight, and the music slows and speeds with the action, and throbs like a heartbeat over the LFE channel.
The rather plentiful extras begin with two commentary tracks. The first track features writers/directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, and is not surprisingly quite funny. The boys immediately start taking swipes at themselves, and any time things threaten to get serious someone breaks out with a joke. It’s clear that Gervais and Merchant depended on their crew for the film’s technical achievements (not to say they didn’t clearly know what they wanted), so there isn’t a lot of technical talk here, but the discussion of themes and story is enlightening enough to overlook such a ‘problem’. Discussion concerning the autobiographical moments in the film is also particularly interesting. The second track features cast members Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes and Jack Doolan. These fellas are a bit more ‘professional’, even filling in quite a bit of production information our hilarious directors neglected to mention. This track loses focus more often, and features more blank space, so despite the generally informative nature I’d recommend skipping it for the director’s commentary, assuming you’re only planning on listening to one.
Next up are ten deleted/extended scenes (13:40, HD). The film already runs a bit repetitive and long, so even though these scenes are perfectly fine, the deletions were all good ideas. The one exception is a scene where Bruce actually applies himself, and easily sells five life insurance policies on Freddie’s behalf. It’s interesting to note the difference in colour timing in this rawer form. These are supported by an amusing and elongated blooper reel (13:40, HD), featuring a whole lot of off camera Gervais giggles. ‘The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’ (15:10, HD) sees the writer/director team bowling through their reasons for doing the film, their actors, and the themes explored, all set to clips from the film and behind the scenes footage. ‘Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction’ (10:10, HD) sees the three leads talking about their experience with the directors, the script, and other tales of working on the film, which for all three is one of their first. ‘Seventies Style’ (08:40, HD) explores the costume, prop, set, and other production design, all of which had the distinction of being period. Various members of the cast and crew are interviewed, but production designer Anna Higginson and costume designer Ruth Myers are the featurette’s best assets.
The extras are completed with four behind the scenes ‘Production Featurettes’ (‘The Start of Filming’, ‘Week 1’, ‘Meet the Boys’, ‘The Directors on Set’, 06:50, HD), and trailers for other Sony Blu-ray releases.
Cemetery Junction sees writer/directors Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant taking their special brand of storytelling somewhere relatively unexpected, which should please their fans, especially those sick of Gervais’ American output’s relative repetition. The plot isn’t going to surprise anyone that has seen any coming of age movie since The Graduate, but the cinematography and performances exceed expectations. The Blu-ray spectacularly recreates the sun-baked ‘70s look, the DTS-HD soundtrack is above serviceable, and the extras feature two solid and fun commentary tracks, and a collection of amusing featurettes. All-in-all a good package.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray image release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 17th August 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, French and Spanish, Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio Descriptive Track
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Directors Commentary, Actors Commentary, Deleted and Extended Scenes, Bloopers, The Directors: A Conversation with Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, Lads Look Back: The Stars Discuss Cemetery Junction, '70s Style, Production Featurettes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant
Cast: Tom Hughes, Felicity Jones, Christian Cooke, Ricky Gervais, Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew Goode
Genre: Comedy and Drama
Length: 95 minutes
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