“Monotonous” is one of the more unlikely terms one would associate with Bruce Robinson’s 1989 film, “How to Get Ahead in Advertising,” which reunited the writer-director with star Richard Grant. The film is essentially a dark satire of contemporary consumerism, but to describe it as such is to hide just how incredibly bizarre it is. Grant plays a hotshot advertising exec who hits a creative roadblock while trying to come up with a campaign for acne cream and ends up developing a boil on his shoulder. One that grows. And grows. Until it has its own face and starts talking. Hard to believe, but things then get even stranger–and thanks to Grant’s bravura performance, the film becomes even more wickedly enjoyable. Robinson is more adept at the surrealism than the satire, and when the latter takes hold toward the end, the film falters; however, Grant doesn’t, and the film is worth a look if only for his fearless, funny work.
Too bad Criterion’s DVD shows barely a fraction of the imagination of the film. Despite being a part of the exalted Collection, this release is as standard as they come. The passable (a remaining reel change mark or two aside) non-anamorphic transfer was supervised, as with Withnail, by cinematographer Peter Hannan; and the film’s original stereo track is presented with no added enhancement. The theatrical trailer is the only supplement included on the disc.
Specifications: 1.85:1 non-anamorphic widescreen; English Dolby Surround; English subtitles.