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Film / Starter for 10

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For as long as he can remember, working class Southender Brian Jackson has craved knowledge and dreamed of going to university- and ultimately, appearing on University Challenge. He finally achieves all of these things when, against everyone's expectations (including his own), he is accepted at The University of Bristol and makes the 1985 University Challenge team. With things going so well for Brian, what could go wrong?

The film is based on the novel of the same name by David Nicholls and was directed by Tom Vaughan.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Job Change: In the book, Brian's mother works at Woolworths; in the movie, she works at a shoe shop.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: The movie takes place in 1985, yet we hear The Cure's "Pictures of You" and "Lovesong" (the latter is played during the end credits) which were released in 1989 on the album Disintegration.
  • British Stuffiness: Patrick exemplifies this.
  • Coming of Age Story: The film is Brian's, taking us through his first loves and successes and his first epic failure.
  • Disappeared Dad: Brian's father died several years ago.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Brian's stay with Alice's family.
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted with Alice, who makes the team. Still an achievement even if Brian helped her out a bit.
  • The '80s: Takes place in 1985 and 1986, with a very '80s soundtrack to complement it.
  • Epic Fail: Brian happens to see one of the answer cards before the match, and overexcitedly buzzes in before the question is actually asked. He gives the game away, the team is disqualified and he ends up slinking home in shame, with Patrick fuming at him, Alice uncertain of what to do and Rebecca trying to keep up with the van and failing.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Alice, given her romantic history.
  • First Girl Wins: Brian ends up with Rebecca, who he met a party before Alice.
  • Heroic BSoD: Brian ends up in one of these when he's caught cheating on the quiz, slinking home in shame and staying there for weeks. It takes Spencer visiting to get him to come round to his senses and go back to university.
  • Informed Judaism: Rebecca and her family are "secular Jewish non-Zionist socialists" so don't really do much in the way of Judaism.
  • Jumped at the Call: Brian when he finally spots the poster advertising the University Challenge tryouts.
  • Living Prop: Lucy Chang, at least in the film version, exists more or less entirely to fill out the numbers. She has moments attempting to serve as The Heart when the team gets particularly fractious.
  • Love Triangle: Rebecca -> Brian -> Alice.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Spencer, Brian's mate from back home.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Spencer and Tone, Brian's friends back home who like to listen to Motörhead on the pier every night while sneering at Brian for daring to move away and try something new.
  • My Beloved Smother: Brian's mom is a mild example, mostly in that she's constantly trying to load him down with stuff when he's trying to leave the house.
  • Oh, Crap!: "Ursa Major, or the Great Bear!"
  • Old Friend: Spencer, who turns up unannounced to see his old pal at his Bristol home. They end up falling out when he accuses Brian of having changed- or as Spencer puts it, "turned into a wanker". Brian retorts by pointing out that Spencer hasn't changed, and that given his criminal past this is actually worse... though when push comes to shove, Spencer comes to help Brian out of his Heroic BSoD (for a given value of heroic, admittedly) and tells him to move on with his life.
  • Playing Sick: Brian is meant to be spending New Year's Eve with Alice, but they have to send him home early. This is because her grandmother has fallen down the stairs and broken her hip, and it has absolutely nothing to do with Brian getting stoned and disgracing himself in front of Alice's naked parents.
  • The Rival: The team they're matched against happens to be the one that knocked Patrick out the year before.
  • Scenery Censor: The pepperpot in front of Alice's dad's crotch.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The song Ace of Spades in a film about University Challenge? It's almost certainly a reference to this scene from the seminal and strangely violent '80s sitcom The Young Ones. In addition to that shoutout, the Bristol team gets disqualified because the main character reads the question cards, forfeiting to Cambridge. In The Young Ones, Scumbag College are up against Footlights College, Oxbridge, and are disqualified after Rick changes around the question cards, after which Vyvyan throws a grenade at the opposing team, before they themselves are crushed by a giant é's that sort of show.
    • Upon getting into an awkward situation with Alice's mom where they end up having a conversation with her being totally naked and him being somewhat stoned, Brian delivers the line, "Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Harbinson?" Sadly, she doesn't get the reference, and thinks he's hitting on her.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: Spencer and Patrick hate each other practically on sight. Additionally, the Queen's College Cambridge team is significantly more posh than the somewhat more rough around the edges Bristol team.
  • Smug Snake:
    • Team captain Patrick Watts.
    • His counterpart on the opposing team manages to be even smugger.
  • Soapbox Sadie: Rebecca Epstein is apparently the champion of every left-wing cause imaginable at the University of Bristol.
  • That Nostalgia Show: Set in the mid-'80s, and makes glorious use of it with the soundtrack, which features both sides of the Morrissey-Robert Smith feud, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen and the Style Council, for starters
  • This Is a Competition: The attitude of Patrick, who takes it all very, very seriously:
    "Excuse me! This man has been sent from the offices of UNIVERSITY CHALLENGE!''
  • Use Your Head: Subverted when Brian attempts to give Patrick a Glasgow Kiss and knocks himself out. "What we witness here is a basic misunderstanding of the principle of the headbutt."
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: Brian calling Rebecca "Alice" at New Year's.

Alternative Title(s): Starter For 10