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Simon Read [Film Festival 11.18.11] movie review documentary

Year: 2010
Directors: Gaukur Úlfarsson
Writers: N/A
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by:
Rating: 8 out of 10

In the wake of the financial collapse of Iceland and the volcano which managed to disrupt air travel even more than 9/11, stand-up comedian Jon Gnarr decided to run for mayor of Reykjavik in a kind of 'jokey' campaign to send up boring and ineffective politicians. I'm sure he never thought for a moment that the public would find him so honest and charming, albeit slightly mad, that his party, 'The Best Party' would actually be in with a chance of success. This film documents the lead up to the elections as Gnarr meets the public, makes bizarre promises to everyone and annoys the hell out of the other candidates. It's very, very funny.

Gnarr is an extremely warm and pleasant man, a father of five, widower and possessor of incredible wit and spontaneity. Early in his campaign he meets people in a shopping center and lists off all the things he'd do if he were in charge which include giving farmers a night on the town (with their animals of course), fixing the economy by importing rich American Jews and making sure his party has "a few broads" and "someone with a foreign sounding name" for good measure. He attracts the attention of the media and soon begins recording an Icelandic cover version of Simply The Best after sending an email to and getting a positive response. The man is a genius, spouting ideas which fall just the right side of plausible (free bus travel for students, free entry to swimming baths, a campaign for elderly and disabled people) or sometimes spin out of control (Iceland's own Disney World, mandatory watching of "The Wire" for everyone and finding out what happened to the dinosaurs that acted in Jurassic Park) but he surges on regardless of how his opponents try to undermine his presence in the race.

As the election day gets closer Gnarr finds the mudslinging becoming personal and the need to legitimize his efforts has him pushing for comedy as a system of government, as he attends debates and lectures which he simply finds unbearably dull, his speeches deride the politics as nothing to do with real ideals but rather an exercise in vested interests. It's an idea that grabs public attention, even when Gnarr takes the opportunity to make a speech and uses it to explain in painstaking detail the difference between a Moomin and a Snork (he gets a loud and well earned applause after he finishes). His act is that of a simpleton being faced with complicated questions and answering with a straight face in the more outrageous way. What does he have in common with Obama, for instance? "Well, I'm white." I can't do it justice in print but trust me, it's funny as hell.

This is a feel-good documentary in the best possible way. It's not hokey or staged, and when the car breaks down Jon and his gang see it as a great big joke played by God, where another politician would probably have a tantrum (David Cameron for instance would probably have the car fired, and then hack it's phone). For anyone who is convinced politics is too boring this is a good film to turn your opinion around, and it's a character study of a hysterically funny man and the friends who helped him change a cold Icelandic attitude into something altogether more agreeable. His campaign motto was "Hooray For All Kinds Of Things!" Which was pretty much how I felt after the film.

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(10 years ago) Reply

This sounds like fun and reminds me of the french "comedian" Coluche running for president in '81 ... Will watch !


rek (10 years ago) Reply

It's good! I saw it at Hot Docs here in Toronto last spring.


Clacilda (10 years ago) Reply

Hell of a great film.Had no idea what it was about when I walked in, and just LOVED it.Funny whtoiut trying too hard. Touching, Went in very unexpected directions time and again.And very original which is amazing for a man who has made so many films.Few films take me away any more. This one did.

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