Director - Ricky Gervais
Cast - Ricky Gervais, Eric Bana, Kelly MacDonald, Vera Farmiga
Rating - 1.5/5
To make a satire on the current state of news is risky business. For one, prime time news has morphed into a dystopian hellscape. It has turned into a fairly accurate parody of itself, no help required. Sidney Lumet’s classic film Network predicted as much. But back in 1976, when Howard Beale yelled out “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore,” it meant something. Fast forward 40 years to Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix movie Special Correspondents, the sentiment may be similar, but it packs all the passion of a Doordarshan broadcast from the mid-nineties.
It’s a farce, on multiple levels. What is Gervais even trying to say here? It can’t possibly be something as tired and unoriginal as it appears, can it? After all, this is Ricky Gervais we’re talking about – the proud provocateur whose very mention sends Hollywood stars running to their lawyers and Golden Globe organisers to their checkbooks.
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The writing in Special Correspondents is distractingly dull, as is the filmmaking. It is a blemish on the memory of Lumet and writer Paddy Chayefsky and everything they created in 1976. Over the last few years, there were signs that Gervais had matured as a storyteller. From his decidedly controversial take on life and death in his show Derek, to his last feature film, the subdued coming of age drama Cemetery Junction – there were signs. But this sets him back by a decade.
Perhaps it’s all the fault of his uncoupling with frequent collaborators Stephen Merchant and Karl Pilkington. But as the farce sprawled as aimlessly as a recent college grad, a realisation struck: I had not laughed even once. There isn’t a harsher criticism that can be made of a comedian.