Starter For Ten

Starter For Ten


Reviewed by: Sam Moore

Set in 1985, Starter For Ten is a romantic comedy about Brian Jackson (James McAvoy), a young man from Essex with a thirst for knowledge who is accepted to Bristol University. The film is divided between following Brian’s social development on campus and following his training to compete on University Challenge, which we learn is his childhood dream. If this is already sounding boring, I don’t blame you. I was looking at my watch within the first 15 minutes.

The ‘comedy’ element of this film is somewhat lacking for it to be billed as a comedy. Indeed, a few one-liners from Brian’s childhood companion Spencer (Dominic Cooper) are all that I recall even raising a smile. I believe the main reason this fails to amuse is because it’s a very British story being told in a very American fashion. The script, the plot, the characters - all reek of generic American nostalgia movies playing at being British. The mid-eighties setting is portrayed very clumsily as a dull and sombre environment where our working class protagonist is trying to make something of himself by somehow attending a very prestigious and expensive institution but finding himself alienated from his childhood roots along the way. This has been portrayed in such a way that it’s clear what’s going on, but it’s entirely boring and not very believable to boot. There’s a romance angle involved as well, a love triangle where Brian is forced to chose between Alice (Alice Eve), a gorgeous blonde who is the stereotypical ‘woman with danger written all over her’, and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) who is the slightly less gorgeous woman whom he’s clearly going to end up with anyway. If anyone out there remembers going to University and meeting two women as attractive as these two within a day of arriving on campus, I’d very much like to know where you studied! The progression of Brian realising Alice is trouble and Rebecca is his soul mate is painfully obvious from the outset, and I’d lost interest after a couple of scenes.

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In most ‘coming of age’ movies our protagonist will make one terrible mistake and spend the rest of the film becoming a better man/woman for it. In this case Brian keeps on messing up just when you think he’s getting the hang of things, which is refreshing in a sense as it keeps you wondering how he’s going to mess up next - however this isn’t ‘Jason Biggs in American Pie funny’ messing up, it’s more like ‘that was so obvious, are you some kind of moron?’ messing up. The character of Brian started out as being a likeable sort whom I sympathised with, but after his third or fourth mistake I was ready to throw him to the wolves and do something else.

In conclusion this movie has got some potential, especially if you’re looking for a little nostalgia and a few basic giggles, but on the whole I can’t recommend it. The acting is decent enough, but the script is bland and the whole story is just a bit dull - when Brian finally gets his chance to shine on University Challenge it’s more a relief that the story is actually progressing than anything else. We’re supposed to learn a lesson about staying true to your roots and resisting temptations (drugs, dangerous woman, dishonesty), but this lesson is delivered in a sufficiently unappealing form to miss the mark for me.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2006
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A love triangle amongst university quizers and class-conscious students.
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Chris ***

Director: Tom Vaughan

Writer: David Nicholls, based on the novel by David Nicholls

Starring: James McAvoy, Alice Eve, Rebecca Hall, Charles Dance, Lindsay Duncan, Elaine Tan, Simon Woods, Raj Ghatak, Ian Bonar, Dominic Cooper

Year: 2006

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: UK/US


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