Chubby Funny is Harry Michell’s sophisticated debut as writer, director and star in a very funny comedy about contemporary generational angst.
Supporting Actby Alexa Dalby
CAUTION: Here be spoilers
Written, directed and starring Harry Michell, you’d expect Chubby Funny to risk being self-indulgent. In fact, it’s an amazingly mature filmmaking debut, a contemporary comedy that’s deceptively deep.
Oscar (Michell) and Charlie (Augustus Prew) are university friends, both now aspiring actors sharing their tiny first flat together in Zone 4 in London. They both have the same agent (scene-stealing Alice Lowe), but to Oscar’s disappointment, she assesses Charlie as the serious romantic lead material (he’s got the cheekbones for it) and curly-haired, ginger, well-built Oscar as only suitable for a sympathetic ‘best friend’ foil – she typecasts him as ‘chubby funny’.
At first the two guys’ cramped flat-sharing is endearingly cosy and jokey, but as Charlie’s career starts to take off and Oscar’s doesn’t – he only does a chocolate commercial and has a thankless job as a chugger for a homeless charity – it strains their relationship. Friends describe Oscar as a ‘man child’ – he’s funny, witty and kind, but also emotionally insensitive. He is bumbling blindly through life and in the film he has to learn the maturity to deal with the disappointments he faces trying to make his way in the world. Longing for a girlfriend, he doesn’t appreciate the sweet relationship he has with budding journalist Sophie (Isabella Laughland) and he has a dating failure with Joanna (Olivia Ross). Some of the funniest scenes in the film come from the prickly default friendship he strikes up with the deadpan man behind the counter at the local convenience store (Asim Chaudhry). There are other disasters along the way – an awkward Christmas back home with his uninterested extended family (his onscreen and real-life stepmother Anna Maxwell Martin) and a gruesomely embarrassing drink with his seedy, cynical old school teacher (David Bamber).
The central characters describe themselves as middle class and privileged, but life’s still a struggle, although Oscar’s told unsympathetically “You’re a white, middle-class male – what have you got to be depressed about?”. Chubby Funny is being spoken about as a successor to the iconic Withnail and I, but because of it’s vivid characters it’s a surprisingly original take on young adult life as a creative in the big city. This is reinforced by fresh, funny dialogue and the unusual use of Schubert as the defining background mood music – it’s also an insight into Oscar’s character as it’s what he listens to through his headphones. It’s fluidly shot and also remarkable for the stellar cast that Michell has attracted for a first film – Jemma Redgrave and Julian Rhind-Tutt also make brief but memorable appearances. Perhaps this was something to do with the fact that Harry Michell’s father is Roger Michell, the director whose latest film is My Cousin Rachel and the credits show it’s a bit of a family production. However, this shouldn’t detract from Harry Michell’s very obvious writing, directing and acting talent, and he’s one to watch.
Chubby Funny screened at the Loco film festival and East End Film Festival and is released on 30 June 2017 in the UK.