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Starter for 10

The Great British Teen 80s Flick that Never Was

Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) is a young man who is a charming mix of complete, utter naivetť and an enormous storehouse of random factoids. The former quality is largely due to his sheltered upbringing in working class Essex. Brianís vast store of random factoids is largely a result of the countless hours spent watching UKís version of "Jeopardy", "University Challenge" as a child. The utility of Brianís knowledge and the depths of his naivetť are put to the test as he heads off to Bristol University in Starter for 10.

Starter for 10 is the UKís answer to the John Hughes coming of age films in the 80s. But, rather than poking fun or parodying hairstyles or odd wardrobe choices prevalent during this period, director Tom Vaughan plays this one straight.

The film is a romantic, comedic coming of age story set in the 80s with a soundtrack that brilliantly evokes the time period. Replete with classic tracks from Wham, The Cure, and Tears for Fears, itís hard not to enjoy listening to the soundtrack, even if you donít necessarily enjoy the film.

Fortunately, Starter for 10 offers more than a solidly constructed soundtrack. Brianís journey towards adulthood and independence is one that undoubtedly will resonate for many. Most coming of age comedies today are in the vein of American Pie and get their laughs from raunchy gross out moments. The humor in here is derived largely from the awkwardness of Brian trying to figure things out, including himself.

James McAvoy is well cast as the "knowledgeable", but concurrently daft Brian Jackson. McAvoy does a reasonably good job of getting you to root for him despite some awfully bad miscues on his part throughout the film. Brian is just too charming and well intentioned at the end of the day to condemn him for making the kinds of mistakes that many of made at his age (or still make today!).

As can be expected, a large part of Brianís problems involves a couple of young women heís torn between. On the one hand is his sultry, blonde University Challenge teammate, Alice Eve (Alice Harbinson). On the other hand is the smart, politically active Rebecca Hall (Rebecca Epstein). Needless to say, Brian does a pretty good job throughout the film of fucking things up royally before getting some semblance of a clue.

At the end of the day, Starter for 10 is a fairly charming, humorous coming of age story that most can relate to on some level. If thereís one criticism to be leveled at the film, it is the fairly transparent, predictable trajectory and resolution, but itís not enough of a problem to completely derail what is ultimately a solidly entertaining film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars