How To Get Ahead In Advertising

With his second feature as a director (after Withnail and I), Bruce Robinson, who previously scripted The Killing Fields, offers a genuine oddity. A successful English advertising executive named Dennis Bagley (Richard E. Grant) has a crise de conscience while suffering a creative block about how to launch a new pimple cream. A boil grows on the side of his neck and assumes the identity of an alter ego, speaking with its own glibly proadvertising voice and gradually overtaking his life, until Bagley’s own head is reduced to the size and status of a boil. What’s even odder than this story concept is the Kafkaesque literalism with which Robinson treats it, so that what emerges is not exactly (or purely) comedy or satire or allegory or horror-fantasy, but a daffy and at times wordy story with hints of all these elements that proceeds on its own terms. It’s hard to know whether to recommend this or not, but it must be conceded that nothing else is remotely like it, and Richard E. Grant certainly attacks his part with brio. With Rachel Ward, Richard Wilson, and Jacqueline Tong. (JR)

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