Please, please, please be as good as BBC's The Office. Please? Well, here's our beloved Ricky Gervais, just missing his chance to get into the shot in a very David Brent-like movie. Don't care... I'm headed into this with a strong bias toward wanting to like it, despite HBO's building surplus of showbiz-related fare. And the first-audible-laugh honors go to guest-star Kate Winslet for her absolutely filthy dirty-talk coaching (which I obviously can't repeat here). But good god, are they jumping in with both feet in terms of dancing around delicate topics for humor, or what? A Nazi movie, atheism vs. belief and a character with cerebral palsy? "Heaven? Brilliant up there," Gervais' Andy tells the others. "You're gonna have an amazing time." In his voice, funny. When I type it, not so much.
Then there's Winslet again, gamely saying she only took a Holocaust film because she figured she was guaranteed an Oscar, and Andy making time with a woman in a habit beneath a huge portrait of Hitler. Poor Maggie, though, trying out Winslet's dirtiest lines on her boyfriend and then having to explain the words. Back to the touchy stuff, though, as they add priest-and-pedophilia jokes to the mix (and get a giggle out of me with the "Father Michael O'Flatley" joke to boot). Andy's summary of his bombing out with his potential date says it all, however: "Lied to a priest in front of a roomful of Christians some of them elderly, some of them just weird and bewildered. So, insulted them and their belief system, made a woman hate me for the rest of her life, yeah? Didn't believe in God before, definitely going to hell." As good a summation as any, and I think I'll be happy to stick with this even with the strong Brent overtones, which I was curious to see if Gervais could avoid. Also, if they hadn't already won me over with anything else, the use of old Cat Stevens ("Tea for the Tillerman," for you young'uns) would have sealed the deal.