For three weeks every summer the city of Edinburgh goes mental. With the world's biggest art festival, thousands of people descend upon the city. Performers of varying degrees of desperation come looking for that bit of recognition, acceptance and fame that will hopefully catapult them further into the spotlight.

Annie Griffin's film tries to squeeze the whole experience from several insider points of view into just under two hours. Like the festival itself, parts of it work very well but others fail miserably.

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Writer/director Griffin crams in at least half a dozen storylines, probably more. Some of them engage the viewer with their characterisation, although not many people are very likable, despite the skill the actors bring to their parts. Stephen Mangan practically dominates the film, as a celebrity comedian back on the Fringe to judge the comedy awards, who is not only horrible to his fans but pretty much to anyone who gets in his path, unless they have breasts.

Daniella Nardini is given one of the few sympathetic roles, as a jaded, cynical Radio Scotland correspondent, who is more than able to spar verbally with Mangan when their paths cross. Sick of the sycophancy and self-absorption all around her, why she flings herself into an affair with a comedian, desperate for media attention, is never made clear.

It is something the film does often, raises questions without answering them. Stories and characters take several turns, mostly unexpected and sometimes surprising and quite troubling. Paedophilia for laughs, anyone? No? Oh well, here comes a quick reference for how fisting equals puppetry. Please don't ask me to explain that. When it happens, you'll know. It is a comedy, but not a black comedy, just a very cruel one.

Why Griffin then decides to go back to plotlines that fail to amuse, entertain or shock is just as puzzling and annoying. The strand where an ignored housewife finds her true calling when a bunch of pretentious Canadian avant-garde types come to stay is the most obvious. It is so slight that it could have been dealt with in minutes, or even better, left on the cutting room floor. That said, these Canadians are the most annoying characters that I can remember in any film ever, which certainly didn't help. Whenever they showed up, I felt like running up to the screen and scribbling my pen over their pretentious faces. Don't laugh. It's something I could take to the Edinburgh Festival itself and sell tickets for.

In the end, the good slightly outweighs the bad. The film is not afraid to take risks. Some scenes are laugh-out-loud as well as gasp-out-loud, especially the sex scenes for which it will probably be best remembered.

It celebrates what it is about and questions the point of it all. Fans of Channel 4 comedies, such as Green Wing, which starred Mangan, and Book Group, which Griffin wrote, will find plenty to enjoy.

Reviewed on: 15 Jul 2005
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A cynical ensemble comedy of life on the inside of the Edinburgh Festival.
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Director: Annie Griffin

Writer: Annie Griffin

Starring: Daniela Nardini, Stephen Mangan, Chris O'Dowd, Amelia Bulmore, Billy Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Dorothy Paul, Lucy Punch, Clive Russell

Year: 2005

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


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