The film focuses on three lifelong pals entering adulthood: Bruce (Tom Hughes) is all swaggering bravado; Snork (Tom Doolan) is a clown, alternately arrogant and naively inane; and apprentice insurance salesman Freddie (Christian Cooke) is knuckling down to a life of bourgeois comfort he hasn’t quite sold himself on yet. He finds a kindred spirit in childhood crush Julie (Felicity Jones), whose slimy dad (Ralph Fiennes) and fiancé (Matthew Goode) – Freddie’s boss and mentor at the insurance firm – have decidedly lower opinions of her potential.
There are laughs, but this isn’t quite a comedy. Gervais and Merchant have stated their intention to make a classically cool movie along the lines of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ or ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and they get away with it up to a point. Rather than sniggeringly naff, their ’70s suburbia is handsomely designed and lit, with attractive, engaging kids undergoing unabashedly emotional life-changes.
It’s not a wholly convincing fit: though confidently executed, the film often leans heavily enough on its models to feel formulaic, and its romances map a little too closely on to those of ‘The Office’. Overall, though, it’s refreshing to see a mainstream British film with the ambition to strut its stuff on studio terms. Aspirational indeed.