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Brand: A Second Coming

8/10

Stars: Russell Brand

costars: Jonathan Ross, Katy Perry, Noel Gallagher, Jeremy Paxman, Stephen Merchant, Rosie O’Donnell

Director: Ondi Timoner

LetÂ’s face it.

Having found fame as a stand-up comedian (briefly) Hollywood star and aspirant messiah, Russell Brand is probably best known to the general British public for the notorious ‘Sachsgate’ scandal when he and equally self-adoring chat show host Jonathan Ross caused the BBC reportedly to be fined £100,000 when they amused themselves by leaving obscene remarks on actor Andrew Sachs’ telephone answering machine.

The featured scene of this happening still nauseates.

(ItÂ’s arguable that ITV lost out as well since they inherited Ross and his chat show).

According to director Ondi Timoner, a documentary, concentrating on Brand and called ‘Happiness’ six years ago was the genesis of her fascinating film that cruelly lets its subject expose himself largely through his own words and actions. Other directors had come and gone before Timoner came to the rescue and did it on her terms.

Result? A compelling biopic and one that comes across as anything but the kind of hagiography so beloved of ego-driven show biz subjects: and, believe me, the last time I saw so many egos rampant while trying (and usually failing) to pretend that they were just ‘ordinary’ people, was at the BAFTA awards.

As 24-carat comic legend George Burns so aptly put it, ““Sincerity - if you can fake that, you've got it made.”

And so we are treated to sequences of Brand conversing with the Great, the Good and the Better, including David Lynch, Rosie O’Donnell, Oliver Stone, Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, Ross again and Stephen Merchant whose on-screen subtitle “Co-creator of The Office” is surely likely to lose Ricky Gervais as a fan.

Interesting footage shows Brand as a skinny kid from a broken home in Grays’, Essex who, determined to find fame, sampled show business at a Boys dance club, entered and was thrown out of a drama school and, drug-addicted and bulimic and a rehab and relapse regular, finally made it as a foul-mouthed stand-up comedian “dominated by fame and the pursuit of it”.
We see Brand, a bag on is head, impersonating the Elephant Man at a railway station, joining in a street protest that leads to him stripping off on top of a police van before being brought down by the law and, naturally, he is shown on stage spouting jokes that are actually funny but so foul-mouthed they might even bring a blush to the delicate cheeks of Channel Four commissioning editors.

His mother appears, as does his father with the comment, “He was a lonely little boy”.

As an adult star, however, his entourage and admirers are/were legion.

Noel Gallagher joins in to talk about Brand to camera, Brand’s various agents and managers have their say (well, sort of – remember, this is a hagiography), we are treated to brief flashes of Brand’s (now defunct?) Hollywood career and an even briefer reference to his marriage to singer Katy Perry and, in two highly unexpected and fascinating sequences, we watch Brand address the United Nations in Vienna and, movingly and well-out-of-character, his comment “This is hell!” on seeing starving children foraging for food in Kenya, makes you wonder how different is the private Brand from the re-Branded messiah he sees himself as now.

Among the many ‘celebrities’ appearing as witnesses, Jeremy Paxman twice attacks Brand, once bearded, once clean-shaven and smugly informs his subject that he is a narcissist.

Band slams back an ace with, “I’m your narcissist”.

Well, it takes one to know one.

And, finally, in this gripping dissection of a man who admits, “fame can be very corrupting and corrosive”, some of Brand’s spoken aperçus are worth repeating.

My favourite? “History creates great men. Great men don’t create history”.

Perhaps the same could be said of Show Business?

Alan Frank

UK/USA 2015. UK Distributor: Metrodome. Colour.
105 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 3, Swearing 3.

Review date: 23 Oct 2015