Tristram Shandy:
A Cock and Bull Story

Director: Michael Winterbottom (Code 46, Wonderland, Butterfly Kiss)
Writer: Laurence Sterne (novel)
Screenplay: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Producer: Andrew Eaton
Starring: Steve Coogan, Rob Brydon, Keely Hawes, Kelly Macdonald, Naomie Harris, Jeremy Northam, Gillian Anderson
MPAA Rating:R
Running time: 94 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

     An interesting idea for a film to be sure. The attempt at filming a film that is supposed to be about a novel that is unfilmable. Let me try to explain it. First off, it's all acted. None of the "behind the scenes" shots are truly behind the scenes. That is what the film is. However, about a third of the film is that unfilmable movie. So it's a movie about a movie; of which we get to see parts of. To make it slightly more complicated, at the end, we see the cast watching the film we just watched. So to sum it all up, it is a film about a film about a film. Cornfused? Good.

      So most of the time we are watching the actors (Coogan and Brydon) deal with the pains of the making of a movie. Costume problems, set problems, script rewrites and annoying crew members. Couple all this with the demands of time, the studio and a family trying to spend some time with the actors as well. All of this creates for some very hilarious moments. But a lot of it is just drawn out exposition.

      The whole film is just a series of small happenings and meetings between characters whilst trying to make a film. Some of the interactions are uproarious, while some are just plain dull and seemed to drag and ended up not having much of a point. Most of the funny moments are just quick dialogue moments with one or two almost slap-stick moments. Just thinking about those few moments is enough to bring a slight chuckle out of me as I sit here and type.

      The characters are all lovable. Especially Brydon's character who continuously wants people to look at his "not white" teeth, touch his bald spot or tries unsuccessfully at some hilarious impersonations. Fairly big names (Jeremy Northam, Gillian Anderson) have small roles that fit into the story nicely and do well at helping the "story" flow.

      My guess is that this film won't gain much exposure or praise as it just barely chugs along the whole time. But it is so original in it's thinking and style that I actually really liked it. Whether it is an honest adaptation of the novel, "Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Esq." or not, I have no idea as I have never read it or heard about it before. I think that the way this film is made is making the point that the novel is indeed unfilmable.

      Hard to review since it barely can be considered a film, I recommend viewing the trailer before heading out to try and find this film in a theater (mostly in art-houses and independent theaters I would guess). Viewing the website alone is an exercise in confusion (unless you're a Mac user). Go there and you will see what I mean. It really does well in representing the thought that went behind the making of this film.

      I have to give it a reserved thumbs-up for it's originality, great characters and moments of pure hilarity; even though it is a little slow at times and I think there will be many people out there who will be upset that they sat through "Tristram Shandy." I'm just one of the people who "got it," and I enjoyed it at the time. Caught on an off day, I might've had different opinions about it. To sum it all up, I quote the main character in the film (who also plays the main character in the film they are making in the film) as he is speaking with his wife about his role in the movie in the movie: "I am playing the main character in a movie entitled after the main character, but by the end of the film I'm not even born yet!" Just exactly the right amount of confusion for what this film is: a cock and bull story.

The must-see Official Site
IMDb - full cast and crew