All My Friends Hate Me plays into the awkwardness of social conventions with clunky passive aggression.
All My Friends Hate Me was sent to Cinamore to review prior to its release, though all words were written entirely by the writers at Cinamore.
All My Friends Hate Me is Andrew Gaynord’s feature directorial debut, with the quirky anti-comedy poking holes into the social conventions the British set around friendships and social etiquette.
With strong resemblances to Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, referencing the iconic juxtaposition of the opening sequence, Gaynord’s comedy unfulfilled its concept of a gratifying, satirical take on the conventions of British politeness.
Instead, Gaynord’s attempts of melding a Haneke self-awareness with Yorgos Lanthimos’ quirky filmmaking style makes for an equally awkward Frankenstein’s monster of directorial styles and homages drawing attention to the story as written by Tom Palmer and Tom Stourton.
It is in fact co-writer Tom Stourton who in All My Friends Hates Me plays the thirty-something lead Pete, celebrating his birthday with old University friends that revel in the cringe and bullying at his expense.
Throughout we question their motives, but none more so than local-villager Harry (Dustin Demri-Burns) who is invited to share in the birthday boy’s celebrations as part of a cruel tradition where the gang rope in a random local to be the crew’s source of entertainment.
Where All My Friends Hate Me falters is in its understanding of comedy. A strong comedy excels when it treats every situation like a dial. Each time the situation gets progressively worse, cranking it up slowly watching the straight man, in this case, Pete (Stourton), suffer accordingly.
All My Friends Hate Me certainly attempts this, but the dial of pushing the character to breaking point is never fully reached. Instead, much like Gervais’ The Office, we are meant to find comedy in the cringe.
Unlike The Office, All My Friends Hates Me either doesn’t linger in the unsettling cringe long enough or doesn’t reach the tipping point to the extent of reaching the full potential of the comedy beat.
There are undeniable moments that will cause chuckling. Still, the characters are ultimately caricatured of the University stereotype – the stoner, the ex who is now a close friend, and the two friends who fell in love instantly. No supporting character is given depth disappointingly.
Worse even, when the passive aggression dwindles, the film is left with crass attempts at humour including an impression of accused paedophile Jimmy Saville, or narrative threads being ignored entirely like the McGuffin of the abandoned car and restrained dog that reappears throughout Pete’s mental torment.
It is a shame, as All My Friends Hate Me should work as a British dark comedy along the veins of Alice Lowe’s Sightseers and Prevenge, though its inability to identify itself as either a comedy or a horror is ultimately its undoing.
While I am sure that All My Friends Hate Me will be for many a comedic joy, there are fair clearer examples of its point done succinctly or dialled up into satirical farce that for me left me disappointed.
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