This debut film feature from independent director Mark AC Brown tells the story of Carlson (Matt Prendergast) and Lavender (David Whitney), two very different men who have been thrown together to serve as live-in caretakers of a 200-year-old townhouse in East London. The former is a lovesick puppy of a man who’s just been ditched by his ex and turned to the role of guardian because he has nowhere else to go. The latter, meanwhile, is a practiced old hand at the profession whose background is unclear, largely because he’s fond of telling a different version of it to everyone he meets. His accent is posh and his habits eccentric; that’s all we really know.
While the pair’s polar opposite personalities are an initial source of abrasion between them, unexplained goings-on in and around the house soon overshadow their personal differences and force them to confront uninvited guests. Mysterious heritage tales, clandestine sex parties, ghostly presences and hidden treasure all clamour for attention in a ramshackle story that lurches from one farce to the next with barely a pause for breath. The writing attempts to be sharp and snappy and sometimes succeeds, but its relentless efforts to imitate the style of filmmakers like Guy Ritchie and Edgar Wright are too often unnatural and unsuccessful, meaning it can be a little exhausting overall.
The disjointed and absurd nature of the narrative is mirrored in its larger-than-life characters, including an estate agent who couldn’t be any further up his own arse if he tried, an opportunistic burglar whose Cockney growl is as two-dimensional as his persona and a leading politician who is shameless over the deviancy of his sexual preferences. Then there’s Lavender, an overblown alcoholic whose inflated idea of himself provides many of the film’s funnier moments, and Carlson, who serves as the straight man in all of this frippery. His failed relationship with ex Eleanor serves up one of the film’s only serious moments, but the location of the scene and the constant interruptions of Lavender undercut any real emotion.
The resulting chaos is a rudderless piece of cinema which bounces all over the place, falling over in itself in its attempts to be funny. While these sometimes come off, the general tone is close enough to The Chuckle Brothers in its silliness that it’s often too puerile to really land with the adult audience that its bawdy humour is clearly aimed at. Perhaps a comparison with The Young Ones or Bottom is a more accurate description, and there is likely a subset of fans who will delight in Buxton’s “Boffo!” catchphrase and Lavender’s grandiose raconteuring, but it’s a trifle too trivial to really meet its mark. Having said that, it’s an impressive accomplishment for a team that reputedly had a budget of just a few thousand pounds to work with, but a tighter script, less posturing and fewer toilet gags would help to make it more than just the slightly encouraging debut that it currently is.
Available on demand at Sky Store and Virgin Media from Monday 2 December 2019