Moment #4 How to get ahead in advertising teamed up writer-director Bruce Robinson with actor Richard E. Grant after the cult success of Withnail and I. In truth, I don’t think it has aged well: the story of a successful adman, stuck on a brief for a boil cream, who grows a talking boil that represents everything dislikeable about advertising. (It’s slightly more complicated than that, but spoilers.)
Nothing about it is subtle, though Grant’s performance is mesmerising. But it is a product of its time, released a couple of years after the hubris of Saatchi and Saatchi’s absurd bid for Midland Bank, when for a thankfully short moment in the dog days of the Thatcher ascendancy ad executives were treated like rock stars.
The moment: Other people might have chosen the moment when Grant, naked but for an apron and a shower cap, decides to rid the house of all products that bear the mark of advertising. But, given the time it was made, I think it’s actually the moment earlier in the film where we see his office for the first time, a huge corner affair full of awards, career-defining ornaments, a statue of a horse, and expensive leather armchairs, with a view across the Thames to the Houses of Parliament and along the river to Lambeth Palace. There’s a large telescope trained on the Palace of Westminster: the designer has had fun. Much of the scene is in this youtube clip:
The film is a satire, and in its way the location, the advertiser looking down on the institutions of government and religion, makes the point as well as anything else in the film.
The poster at the top of the film is via the blog Random Rambings.