For too long, music festivals on the big screen have often proved to be one of the most painfully inaccurate experiences that a cinema can offer.
Instead of capturing the mud-soaked reality of five days in a dirty tent, you need only look at Bridget Jones’ Baby or Kingsman: The Golden Circle for the image of a mud-free utopia where lavish yurts, champagne-filled VIP areas and A-list celebrities are lurking at every corner.
Thank god for The Festival then, which might just be the first film to fully acknowledge that music festivals are a little bit shit, but they’re also the perfect breeding ground for a very British blend of brilliantly puerile comedy.
Directed by The Inbetweeners co-creator Iain Morris, The Festival tells the story of recent university graduate Nick (Joe Thomas), who heads to a music festival with best friend Shane (Hammed Animashaun) after he’s unexpectedly dumped by his girlfriend.
Upon arrival, it’s clear that the event is a million miles away from the manicured lawns of Coachella. Instead, it’s a muddy hellscape where things begin to go almost immediately wrong.
For Nick, that means his first night at the festival is defined by an act of hilarious piss-stained chivalry that eventually turns into accidental voyeurism as he attempts to reunite with ex-girlfriend Caitlin (Hannah Tointon).
It’s succesfully milked for belly laughs in the way that only two Inbetweeners alumni could possibly manage. But while it may feel like an overly familiar extension of that very show at times, the film also succeeds in making the laughs feel refreshingly surreal.
One of the film’s standout sequences, for instance, follows Shane and new out-there friend Amy (Claudia O’Doherty), as they stumble upon a Druid wedding where things definitely aren’t quite what they seem. Another sees Thomas in full Inbetweeners mode as he decides that an impromptu strip tease is the best way to woo a hen party of Smurfs.
The scene is fully reminiscent of *that* dance sequence from the first Inbetweeners movie – but it’s packed with a pay-off that proves to be more of a gut-buster than the contents of a festival toilet.
The film’s success also lies with a strong supporting cast of familiar faces who prove more than able in helping Thomas do all the heavy comic lifting. Along with a small but pivotal role for Noel Fielding, Flight of The Conchords’ Jemaine Clement proves an unexpected scene stealer as Shane’s helplessly devoted step-dad.
There’s also a strong recurring joke in Gordy (Theo Barklem-Biggs), a friend who spends the majority of the film in the mother of all K-holes.
All considered, The Festival is possibly the funniest film of an otherwise disappointing summer for big screen comedy. It goes far in proving that the extended world of The Inbetweeners can be still mined for laughs (even if Thomas is getting a bit long in the tooth to be playing a 21-year-old at 34) – and shines a much needed light on the truly horrific reality of UK festivals.
See you in the field.