The film opens as Brand launches his latest stand-up tour, the not-quite-ironically titled 'Messiah Complex'. He proudly points to the fact that he was once the "Third most Googled name in the world" and it's clear that the effervescent egomaniac that so entertains the public is no persona – no exaggerated version of himself for comic effect. Brand defines 'Messiah Complex' – as Jeremy Paxman points out, quoting Monty Python, 'He's not the Messiah, he's just a very naughty boy' – and Timoner's film becomes a fascinating observation on whether Brand's egotism should make us reject the authenticity of his vision.
The film observes Brand's rise to fame through a prism of interview footage, clips of stand-up performances and news reports, pieced together in a fast-paced romp that doesn't steer clear of mocking its controversial star. Brand's main drive, it transpires, is literally to become the most famous person in the world, and from there, to start his Revolution. Brand's desire for screen time knows no bounds – he interrupts everyone he interviews, and resorts to standing naked on police cars to make his voice heard.
Yet Timoner's film also makes us question whether the vitriol against Brand is truly justified, entailing as it does these class prejudices; that an uneducated comedian can or should venture into a world that 'he doesn't really understand'. We observe Peter Hitchens questioning 'how a comedian can be involved in the debate about drug addiction' : essentially telling an ex heroine addict that's not in a position to comment. Should we simply be welcoming an open dialogue? Or is Brand a 'threat' – filling the heads of the uneducated with misinformation?
Does the man overshadow the message?
We're torn throughout between laughing at Brand's simultaneously self-deprecating and self-aggrandising sense of humour, and fear that there's he's not as charmingly naive as he seems. At times calculated and even sociopathic, his treatment of women is uncomfortably glossed over; references to his more intimidating tactics and criminal activities are sparse. We see him constantly smiling – but often through gritted teeth. We laugh with Brand but more frequently at him, which is precisely his weapon of resilience. Overall, the frightening thing about Timoner's film is that none is safe from Brand's infectious humour: she, too, has been seduced by his charm, and the objectivity of her documentary suffers as a result.
Is Brand sturdy enough to take on the political world? The film leaves this tantalisingly unanswered, nor does it proffer any opinion as to whether Brand can be taken seriously, whether we ought to admire or disgust him. Our individual opinions will no doubt be influenced by external factors: what we've heard on the rumour mill, what else we've read and seen of him. But Timoner's film is, like Brand himself, weird, punchy and entertaining, capturing the peculiarity of Britain's quirkiest crusader.
|What||Brand: A Second Coming | Documentary about Russell Brand|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Piccadilly Circus (underground)|
23 Oct 15 – 31 Dec 15, 12:00 PM – 12:00 AM
|Website||Click here to book tickets for the London Film Festival|