With this in mind we turn to “You Instead,” which is director David Mackenzie’s seventh feature film, not that you’d known it from anything on display here. It has all the manufactured, forcible ‘fun’ of a T-Mobile flash-mob advert although it attempts to weave a spontaneous star-cross’d romance out of a happenstance meeting between two bright young things at the T in the Park music festival in Scotland. Unfortunately it’s about as entertaining and convincing as a campfire sing-along of Kumbaya as staffed by a R&D lackey casually smoking a doobie, wearing wayfarers and insisting you down that brisk shot of absinthe because you’ll, like, totally have the time of your life if you do. Shot on the hoof in just over four days, its lack of togetherness and hipper-than-thou attitude bleeds through into almost every aspect of the film.
Much of the problems stem from male lead Luke Treadaway. He’s a British actor who made his name in “Brothers of the Head,” was a delight in the recent “Attack the Block,” and no doubt has Andrew Garfield-style success mapped out for him at some point in the near future. As the louche, apparently successful Californian pseudo-douchebag Adam, though, he’s screamingly unconvincing. We’re led to believe that on the one hand he’s a precious artistic type (at one of the film’s numerous low points he ventures like-minded musicians develop “telepathic connections” with each other) and on the other he’s involved sexually with a vapid model who’s essentially more glamorous version of Kate Capshaw in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” who perpetually carps about her appearance. Adam’s partner in crime and fellow band member is Tyko (Mathew Baynton), a vaguely comedic keyboard player who spends the most of the film’s running time wearing NHS-style glasses and a bright yellow fisherman’s jacket, and whose adjoining personality is as irritating as that dress combination sounds. Together we are led to believe they are members of a fictional sub-Interpol electro-indie band called The Make, and that the band are represented by an aging moustachioed loudmouth (Gavin Mitchell) who is prone to get drunk and harass festivalgoers. To put it extremely mildly, it’s a stretch.
The film’s execution is as embarrassing as its one-dimensional characterizations. Gaps in the narrative are filled by sweeping crowd shots presumably lifted from BBC B roll footage of the event proper, and superfluous side-stories that go nowhere stick out. There are some scenes involving a documentary crew headed by what seems to be a vague take-off of documentarian Franny Armstrong but, like much of the rest of the film, it’s a dead-end, providing only a lame excuse to meekly debate lobbying government for environmental causes. Otherwise we stop the film for a few minutes to listen to a song performed by The Proclaimers, or spend time on-stage with indistinguishable landfill indie outfits like Newton Faulkner (who also crops up for an unfunny cameo) and Biffy Clyro, whose performances do nothing to support the main narrative other than highlight how flimsy its foundation is. It’s hard to get any vicarious thrill from these concert experiences, and any momentary flashes of sweetness elsewhere in the film are either stamped out by the characters’ whiny and pig-ugly self-entitled attitudes or feel constructed to suit its pat Richard Curtis-infected ending.
Given that his film’s remit is frivolous and inconsequential, one would be tempted to let McKenzie off the hook, this being shot in four days and all, until you remember that Edgar Ulmer’s “Detour” completed filming after six and that’s a masterpiece. Perhaps it’s intended as a light trifle, the director’s knockabout festival picture in the vein of Shane Meadows’ “Le Donk and Scor-zay-zee,” in which case it should know better than to have such a high opinion of itself. At a certain point in the film one of the characters, in a tiz and rushing to see one of her favourite bands, unironically spouts, “Kasabian are about to play the main stage!” and quickens her pace. For anyone who’s seen an atrocious band like Kasbian play live, it’s the funniest line in an otherwise insipid and unnecessary work of fiction. [C-]
This is a reprint of our review from the U.K. release in 2011.