Making good on my resolution to watch more of Jessica Knappett’s work, I picked up a copy of The Inbetweeners Movie (2011)… specifically the three-disc DVD edition exclusive to Asda, which boasts a bonus batch of video-diaries, because that’s how I roll.* I’m not generally a fan of gross-out/cringe-comedy, and studiously avoided the (hugely successful) TV sitcom that spawned this big-screen blockbuster spin-off, but found myself laughing a lot harder, and a lot more often than I’d anticipated when I first inserted the disc. The plot can basically be summed up as “awkward teenage boys go on cheap foreign holiday and try to get laid”, which probably has more resonance with viewers who’ve had similar misadventures in their youth, rather than spending the summer indoors reading comic books, watching horror flicks, and playing AD&D. Sigh. It’s currently rocking a 54% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and I’d say that matches my own enjoyment of the movie overall… very funny in parts, and very off-putting in others, with no real narrative to draw me in, and no relatable characters for me to care about… but lively enough that I didn’t spend the whole time looking at the clock, or fast-forwarding through the Knappett-less bits.
Which is lucky, because she’s barely in it at all, and spends half of her scenes silently smiling beside her more talkative pals… presumably to set up the later gag where she aggressively swears at an innocent old woman while (re)claiming her “man”…? Either way, it was rather disappointing from that perspective, although her co-stars Laura Haddock, Tamla Kari, and Lydia Rose Bewley all aced their rather thankless roles as the lads’ (s)heroically patient and forgiving love-interests. To be fair, the film does feature far more naked man-flesh than female flesh, and exploits its established stars’ bodies quite ruthlessly for comedic effect (though they occasionally used doubles and/or prosthetics), so the ladies had a great deal less to be nervous/embarrassed about than their male counterparts, and come out of it looking much more dignified! Oh, I should also give a shout-out to Knappett’s future co-star/writer Lauren O’Rourke, who appears briefly but memorably in the opening and closing sequences, as Neil’s left-behind girlfriend ‘Nicole’… poor thing…
As for the extras, Knappett and Bewley crop-up several times together in the “making of” featurettes, grassing or praising their male cast mates… and all four “girls” get a little individual screentime during the video-diaries. There’s also footage of them attending a couple premieres, looking very glam and answering red-carpet questions about their dresses (meh). Both “the boys” and the writer-creator-producers (Damon Beesley and Iain Morris)** are very complimentary about the girls on their separate commentary tracks, praising their talent and courage in equal measure… even the three unruly (and proudly inebriated) commenters on the director’s track settled-down/sobered-up for long enough to sincerely concur on the cast’s blanket brilliance, and pay particular tribute to the beauty of Bewley. Unfortunately the girls’ own track is a slightly patchy affair, with Haddock absent, a sniffling/nose-blowing Kari so far away from her microphone she’s barely audible at times, and frequent complaints that the screen they’re watching the film on is too dark to see anything!*** Two of the biggest takeaways from the tracks about Knappett are that her relative lack of lines left her free to play morale-officer and invite/lure other cast members to get drunk in her room (which became known as “Bar Knappett”), but she also spent time seriously studying with Blake Harrison to mimic his performance as ‘Neil’ more accurately, and become his female doppelgänger. Eep!
I also checked out Knappett’s first credited onscreen appearance, in an old BBC3 sitcom called How Not to Live Your Life… specifically ep #3.3 (aka “Don’s Posh Weekend”) (2010), in which the show’s oik-ish anti-hero (played by the show’s writer Dan Clark) is invited to stay at a fancy country house by a kinky upper-class “virgin” with an overprotective/oblivious father. Interestingly, the would-be-dominatrix is played by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, of Fleabag fame… and both she and Clark went on to (separately) contribute material to Knappett’s own star-vehicle, Drifters. Bless ‘em. Our heroine does a pretty spot-on RP accent here, playing Waller-Bridge’s bestie, who hooks up with Don’s long-suffering boss, played by Daniel Lawrence Taylor (who, for the record, has also created his own sitcom, called Timewasters!) Oddly enough, despite the age-difference between the lead characters this show seems pretty much of-a-piece with The Inbetweeners, with a crude fish-out-of-water fella “following his cock” from one stumbling embarrassment to the next. The major difference is that [SPOILER ALERT!] the secretly-quite-sweet teens all find proper romance on their holiday-in-the-sun, while the old-enough-to-know-better Don is rightly punished by the universe for his ignorance and offensiveness, hounded from the grounds and forced to hitchhike along the side of a motorway wearing only a strappy bondage outfit, handcuffs, and ball-gag! Fyi, this episode ends with a scene of Waller-Bridge and Knappett lying on a bed together in lingerie, if that’s the sort of thing that floats yer boat…
* I couldn’t find the information anywhere online when I looked for it, so in case you’re curious the bonus disc contains a 44-minute-long video-diary compilation, starring/filmed-by the main cast members over the length of the shoot, mostly documenting the ways they entertained themselves between set-ups. It’s pretty entertaining, and also gives you the best behind-the-scenes footage of just how hard it was raining during their distinctly un-“summery” off-season shoot.
** Fun fact: Morris and Beesley also wrote two episodes of Flight of the Conchords (#1.11 and #2.5), despite not being American or Kiwi!
*** It’s revealed in the director’s commentary that this is because everyone’s watching a “compressed Quicktime” movie, rather than a proper/decent hi-res version of the film.