How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
Reviewed on 2010 June 18
A very scathing British comedy about the advertising industry, that starts off with a nasty, but honest synopsis of how cardboard diet food is marketed. (It was in fact so honest I made my spouse watch it and explained that’s why women as a whole are so hung up on what we eat.) It just gets flakier and meaner as it steamrolls along.
Dennis Bagley (Richard E. Grant) is to the marketing world what Gordon Gecko is to the stock market. He’s the embodiment of ’80s excess as he expounds on how to sell “1200 calories of artificial synthetic orange-flavoured waffle” and other flotsam and jetsam to consumers, having little difficulty with it until he meets his waterloo: a zit cream. For whatever reason, the man who can make those hideous baby-aspirin flavored “waffles” sound appealing is absolutely stumped as to how to promote this stuff, and the stress takes the ultimate toll on him. Dennis grows a nasty, talking boil, one with an even more cynical and vulgar disposition than his, and it wants to take over his life, if not the world.
To say this isn’t for everyone is an understatement. If you don’t like Monty Python, you’ll probably hate this. Otherwise, it’s a nice, bitter little flick. An afternoon watching Richard E. Grant freaking out is always a good time, and Rachel Ward was well-cast as his lovely, put-upon wife, Julia. Writer and director Bruce Robinson makes some interesting points about the manipulation of advertising, and we have a good time watching him do it.
Three chocolate morsels. A one-joke movie, but weird and funny enough to merit a viewing.