Chubby Funny

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Chubby Funny
"The comedy is well balanced with awkwardness and grim observations of modern life."

It's no secret that making it as an actor is tough. Equity figures show that around half live below the poverty line, and it's no secret that a lot of acting jobs don't pay. Oscar (Harry Michell) and Charlie (Augustus Prew) have both been out of work for some time. Socially, it works for them; they share a flat, find other ways to get money, and enjoy a thriving friendship. But when Charlie, described by their agent as "leading man material," gets a job, resentment and jealousy bubble to the surface.

Oscar isn't leading man material. He is, says his agent, "chubby funny... it's just how we're selling you." This, he is convinced, is why Charlie is working and he isn't. Charlie pays the rent; Oscar borrows money from his dad. Charlie finds it easy to develop romantic opportunities; Oscar actually has a woman who cares about him with whom he has regular sex, but still considers himself to be missing out. She (Isabella Laughland) pokes fun at his moaning, pointing out that he's a middle class white man, but when Oscar says "I want something to revolve around me for a change," he means it.

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Any film about two struggling actors in London is inevitably going to invite comparisons with Withnail And I. Chubby Funny has, at its best, some of the same wit, if not the same lunacy, but ultimately it's going in a different direction. A developing friendship with the man who looks after the local shop gives Oscar a glimpse of a life less privileged than his own, but what Oscar lacks is not the will to change but the self-awareness to understand where he's going wrong. Michell is impressive in the role, making him fun to be around even when he's convinced that he must be depressed, making him sympathetic despite his blundering. Though the story unwinds at a gentle pace it doesn't become frustrating thanks to a dry observational humour that's no more merciful where supporting characters are concerned.

The story is slight. There are no real surprises. But it's refreshing to see what is in many ways a conventional tale told from a different perspective. There are strong supporting performances from Laughland, Asim Chaudhry (as the shopkeeper) and David Bamber as Oscar's equally bitter former teacher. The comedy is well balanced with awkwardness and grim observations of modern life. The film never quite captures the spark it seems to be chasing but it's smart, funny and a good watch despite that.

Reviewed on: 25 Jun 2017
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Appalled to discover that he is the ‘chubby funny’ best friend type, a down and out actor is determined to change his fortunes.
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EastEnd 2017

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