Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Comedy Apr 7, 2011 No comments

Tale of two phenomenally egotistical selfish actors.

Release Date: 20 January 2006 (UK)

Director: Michael Winterbottom

Cast: Steve Coogan, Jeremy Northam, Rob Brydon

Country: USA

Language: English

This 2006 film from director Michel Winterbottom is the tale of two phenomenally egotistical selfish actors during the making of a period drama, an adaptation of “Tristram Shandy” and as such is one of those curious “film within a film” pieces, with excepts from the story being interwoven with the “real life” shenanigans.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon both play themselves…well, elaborated OTT versions of themselves. At lease, one hopes they are! Both are shallow, craven, self obsessed and largely failed in love and both are locked in a war for importance, second fiddle Brydon constantly insisting that he is in fact the “co lead”. It’s a bold move for both to put themselves on the line like this because you can almost guarantee that there would be some in the audience who went away thinking that the actors were genuinely like that.

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story

Speaking of actors, the film has a great supporting cast. Names like David Walliams and Dylan Moran (playing the wonderfully named “Dr Slop!”) are familiar to UK TV watchers and cinema goers and it’s a delight to see Jack shepherd, one of those always reliable actors who never fails to put something extra into his performances and Keeley Hawes, a somewhat underrated actress recently finding fame in “Ashes to Ashes” as Elizabeth. There’s even an appearance by Gillian Anderson.

The films metatextual switching between the adaptation of “Tristram Shandy” and the production could easily get confusing but Frank Cotterel Boyce is a clever enough writer to avoid that trap and makes everything fit together seamlessly. Adapting the original novel by Laurence Stern has long been considered impossible so this is an intelligent way of filming the unfilmable. It’s also a lot funnier than a straight adaptation would have been, as you might expect from comic giants of the like of Coogan and Brydon. It’s not played entirely for laughs by any means, there’s a tremendous sense of disillusionment with the real world at its heart which is played sensitively through the characters and the two different worlds play against each other, one commenting on the other. This is a great movie with some fine actors and is a very satisfying watch. Enjoy it!

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