11 August 2009

The Agent

The Agent

Dir. Leslie Manning/ Written by Martin Wagner 

Ever wonder who decides what books you read? No, it’s not Richard and Judy, not even Oprah. The answer, as delivered by this spiky and clever little film, happens to invariably be the literary agent (played with gutsy vigour here by William Beck). Alexander the agent is cunning, ruthless and oblivious to taste or criticism and is out to make lots and lots of money. Which he does very well.  And like all the best con-men, we find that he is strangely likeable and charismatic in spite of ourselves …

Plunging us head first into the wheelings and dealings of the publishing world, Martin Wagner’s bitingly funny screenplay follows disgruntled author Stephen (a world-weary Stephen Kennedy) in his attempts to get his agent to justify his fee and his occupation.  Fearing that his agent is not doing enough to push his second novel, Stephen takes matters into his own hands…

The Agent started out as a play and it shows in the production. There are only a few characters (Maureen Lipman turns up in one very funny scene) and most of the film is a two-way conversation between Stephen and Alexander taking place in a non-descript office. But what the film lacks in action or variety of tone it more than makes up for in the quality of the writing and acting. The two leads are superb and absolutely convincing in their given roles. Kennedy’s edgy desperation drives the film and evokes tremendous sympathy as the man who has been knocked by life one too many times. Beck is equally good and displays great levels of wit and charm. The characters are so believable that at points the film almost feels like a documentary.

The real star on show however is the terrific writing. I doubt a more truthful film exists in relation to the literary world and if it does it could scarcely be more energetic, funny or stylish. A real gem, packed with wonderful lines and two incredible, performances. This is a challenging and thought provoking film that treats its audience with a maturity and respect, which is unfortunately all too rare in British cinema. Seek it out.

The Agent is out September 18th and is showing at the BFI Southbank.