The Emperor’s New Clothes
It’s probably worth saying up front that this documentary about the widening gap between rich and poor is the brain- and love-child of British enfant terrible, Russell Brand, so if you loathe the very sight of his shaggy-haired, flashing-eyed face, you’d be best to give it a miss.
But if you, like I, find yourself rather entranced by the bad boy of Essex whose triumph over drug addiction and low self-worth has been hilariously and self-deprecatingly documented, you will be well advised to hear what he has to say.
Brand has rebranded himself into something of a political commentator in recent years, outspoken in the very best way against the aspects of Thatcher’s legacy that live on in the current British government. Here, in his first proper feature length doco, he has wisely teamed up with director Michael Winterbottom, who basically lets Brand get on with it as he rants down the camera lens, inveigling us with those dark brown peepers, and giving us a chuckle every now and then as he accuses millionaire bankers of being “crafty” and engaging in “skulduggery”. Ah, Russell.
He has a point, though. Visiting council estate residents in east London, Brand nicely demonstrates the disparity in prison sentences handed down to those involved in the London riots of 2011 and the financiers responsible for the 2008 GFC: 14 months for nicking an iPod dock versus – oh wait, nothing; there haven’t been any bankers prosecuted.
Though the film largely focuses on the ills of Great Britain, its woes are sadly transferable here and around the world. The narrative gets a bit lost in places, but Brand covers plenty of ground, and every insight is still horrifically enthralling.