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Film / David Brent: Life on the Road

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"I love soundchecks... checking all the... sound."

David Brent: Life on the Road is a 2016 British Mockumentary film created by Ricky Gervais and set in the same continuity as The Office (UK) and by extension, The Office (US), in which Gervais reprises his role as Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist David Brent.

Ten years after being made redundant from Slough-based paper merchant Wernham Hogg, David is working as a sales rep for sanitary product supplier Lavichem, but has not given up his dream of being a successful musician. Using up all his remaining annual leave — and taking additional unpaid time off work — David takes his band Foregone Conclusion on a three-week tour of venues around Berkshire in the hope of being offered a record deal, and finally achieving his dream of rock stardom.


This film provides examples of:

  • Aesop Amnesia: David, after milking his fame for a while, acknowledged the futility and humiliation of trying to sell himself to a thoroughly uninterested younger audience in the Christmas special of The Office. Fifteen years later, he goes a step further, reviving his dream to be a rock star and putting together a band comprised of guys he's at least two decades older than.
  • Afraid of Blood: David is this, to the point of fainting when he catches sight of some of his own while getting a tattoo.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: For a given value of "bad boy", anyway. David is once again the office manchild, disliked by most, but this time he has an admirer.
  • Attention Whore: David is a huge one and truly loves being the centre of attention. He feels that he deserves fame and fortune.
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  • Beware the Nice Ones: Quiet and mild-mannered Pauline throwing a cup of water over Jezza and calling him a knobhead when she finally has enough of his bullying of David and Nigel.
  • Be Yourself: Dan thinks David would have much more success if he gave this a go.
  • Brick Joke: As the tour progresses, the band begin to worry that performing with David will affect their future bookings, speculating that their credibility will be ruined and nobody will want to book them. At the end of the movie, as David reflects on the tour:
    David: The band are on tour with Peter Andre. So, they've fallen on their feet.
  • Cringe Comedy: Obviously. This is bread and butter for The Office (UK) and is the primary - possible solitary - source of all the humour in the movie.
  • Determinator: David might not ever enjoy the fame he craves, but not for lack of trying.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: David can't stop doing this. As he is having breakfast with Dom:
    David: Excuse me. Can we have the bill, please?
    Waitress (who is black): Oh, shall I put it on your room?
    David: Rooms. We're not... Separate rooms.
    Waitress: So you want separate bills?
    David: No, no, no. Put it on my room, 106. But "no" that we're not... I wouldn't. Not with him. And not because he's a black man. Because he's a man. I'd do it with a black woman, for example. Not you. Well, yes, you. Yeah. If you were consenting and above legal age, which you obviously are. Not obviously. So...
  • Don't Explain the Joke: The band notes in one of the talking head sections that David does this with each and every song, much to their chagrin.
    • Also, consider this wonderful interaction as David explains the risqué nature of some of his band's lyrics to his two female colleagues:
    David: We got one song, it's about rock 'n' roll, but it's a metaphor for sex. It goes...
    David (singing): I'm gonna roll you over / And rock you stupid / And leave you there just hummin' / There's a party in my trousers, baby / And everybody's comin'
    David: You get it? Ask me how I'm spelling "comin".
    Pauline: How are you spelling "comin"?
    David: c-U-m-i-n.
    Pauline: That's cumin.
    David: Double M!! Think! It's... So, yeah... (mines masturbating) that sort of coming.
    David: Well, not with... (points to the two women) But with... (points to himself) you know.
    David: Although some women do...
    David: Squirt.
    David: Don't know what.
    David: Juice.
    David: No one knows.
    David: Right, see you later.
  • Embarrassing Tattoo: Following his publicist's suggestion, David gets a tattoo to make himself more 'like Beckham'. He can't decide on whether to go for "Slough" (where Wernham Hogg is based, and where he's spent most of his working life) or "Reading" (where he is originally from). As both towns are in Berkshire, he decides to get that tattooed on his upper arm. Halfway through however, he faints upon seeing blood and doesn't want to continue, leaving him with a tattoo that reads "Berk".
  • Epic Fail: One after another. Highlights include David fumbling with a t-shirt gun and shooting a fat girl in the face with it.
  • Formerly Fat: David is still seeing a counsellor regularly to help him cope with the disappointment of being made redundant and feelings of low self-esteem. In one segment, David explains that in the aftermath of leaving Wernham-Hogg he put on a lot of weight which he has since lost.
    David: The lads started calling me 'Brentasaurus'. All good fun. Not at the time. I burst into tears and wanted to kill myself.
    • Although the photo shoot sequence reveals Brent is still a fat, tragic man as Briony declares it to be awful, even questioning the last time David Brent shaved his back.
  • The Four Chords of Pop: "Freelove Freeway". Lampshaded by Brent's commentary on the song in the sheet music book.
  • Gilligan Cut: Dan the sound engineer is initially uninterested in joining David and the band on tour but when David offers to pay him double what he earns at the studio, the next shot is of David, outside the studio speaking directly to the camera saying 'I never dreamed he'd be on that much!'
  • Happy Ending Override: Well, optimistic ending override at least. The Office ended on a positive note for David, with him having found a Love Interest who brings out the best in him and experiencing firsthand how the relentless pursuit of celebrity can leave one feeling degraded and unfulfilled.
  • Hidden Depths: It was clear from The Office that David was given to self-loathing when reality gets a bit too real, but this movie reveals he had a full-blown breakdown after the documentary, was institutionalised, put on weight, and spent half a year on anti-depressants. For all that, he went right back to the Brent we know and love afterwards.
    • After spending the entire movie unenthusiastically sloughing through the tour, Dan rather gently gives David probably the best advice he's ever been given in his life.
  • History Repeats: The faces around his new office might have changed, but Brent is still at it and echoes of Slough are quite noticeable, notably the beleaguered-but-sweet receptionist who has more patience for David than most, the snide and vindictive office bully, and the younger guy David's taken on as a sidekick.
  • Humiliation Conga: The whole film is basically one long one, with David not being allowed to travel on the tour bus with the rest of the band and having to follow behind in his car, not being invited to hang out with the band between gigs, turning up at a venue to find out that he and the band have been booked as part of 'Shite Night', and finally having to return to his job with his tail between his legs having failed to make a success of the tour.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Averted. David's younger band-mates clearly resent his presence and make an effort to keep him separate from the group socially. Seeing David constantly try to connect with them can be painful to watch.
  • Literal Music Video: The opening sequence is edited to resemble one, with the images on screen exactly matching the lyrics of the title song.
  • Not What It Looks Like: David wastes no time in telling Dom that it's not what it looks like when Dom enters his hotel room where he has spent the night with two women. Nothing happened - except they cleared out the mini bar!
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Dan finally taking pity on David and urging him not to spend any money on the tour, and offering to do the rest of the tour for no more money. He even goes so far as to pay £1500 for the fake snow that David desperately wanted out of his own pocket (although as he pointed out, he had done very well out of the tour already due to the exorbitant rate David agreed to pay him.)
    • The rest of the band joining David and Dan for a drink after the final gig of their own volition, not because they were being paid to be there.
  • The Pratfall: While attempting to pull off a Totally Radical back-to-back rock 'n' roll moment with the band's guitarist, David falls over on stage (he failed to notify the guitarist of his intention)
  • The Resenter: David doesn't take well to Dom enjoying genuine popularity while he does not. Or the other guys hooking up with girls after gigs, while he also does not.
  • Shared Universe: Set in the same universe as The Office (UK) (and therefore The Office (US)), albeit with David Brent being the only character to make the transition.
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: Played for Hypocritical Humor, David is immensely proud of having a black friend in Dom and even uses him to prove that he's not a racist to his work colleagues.
  • Status Quo Is God: Much of the (admittedly minor) Character Development David received in The Office isn't really reflected here. The movie proves he essentially learned nothing from Slough and is just as socially inept, casually offensive, and hungry for attention fifteen years later.
  • Totally Radical: David, probably past fifty in this movie, can't quite connect with his much younger band members. And not for lack of trying. Or brown leather jackets, double denim, and ripped jeans.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: David Brent has always been this, although as the movie explores much more of his character, his vulnerabilities and his hopes and dreams, by the end he's crossed the line into solid The Woobie territory.