reporter Frank Bonneville and his engineer Ian Finch could be called the Jayson
Blairs of radio, except they really intended to cover the uprising in Ecuador.
Unfortunately, a funny thing happened on the way to the airport. It was all
Finch’s fault, as it often is. In accordance with their journalistic ethics,
they will just fake it as best they can in Ricky Gervais’s Netflix original Special Correspondents (trailer here), which screens during this
year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
sleeping with the oblivious Bonneville, Finch’s preening wife Eleanor decides
to give him the heave-ho. Frankly, it is probably the best thing that could
happen to him, especially considering Claire Maddox the kind-hearted segment producer
seems to be carrying a torch for him. The Ecuador assignment should be a
convenient cooling-off period for Finch, but he rather inconveniently trashes
their tickets and passports instead of his wildly ill-conceived letter to
borders closing imminently, Bonneville ensconce themselves in the spare room
above their favorite coffee house and proceed to fake it so real, just like
Edward R. Murrow would have done. When their “scoops” threaten to escalate the
international incident, Bonneville and Finch are summoned to the embassy for
their own protection. Of course, that is not going to happen, so they fake
their abduction to cover for their absence. Then the stakes really start to
rise when Eleanor Finch exploits the [fake] crisis as a means of establishing herself
as a media celebrity.
Gervais (directing himself) maintains a level of mild amusement—light chuckles—consistently
throughout Correspondents. There is
funny stuff in there, but it is nothing like seeing the rat episode of Fawlty Towers for the first time.
screenwriter, Gervais hits a nice tone, but he is not so well-informed when it
comes to Latin America. Frankly, it is highly unlikely leftist guerrillas would
revolt against the Correa regime. If a revolution broke out in the Cuban-Venezuelan-aligned
nation (where the independence of the press and judiciary are routinely
violated and thuggery is used to intimidate political rivals), it would be in
the best interests of both the American people and the Ecuadorans to support
the uprising, but our current administration would probably prefer to continue currying
favor with the Castro regime.
Gervais works overtime milking his likable sad sack shtick. However, it is Eric
Bana who really gives the film some bite as Bonneville, the cocky prima donna. Vera
Farmiga is ridiculously over-the-top as Eleanor Finch, but that is the whole
point. Kevin Pollak also gets in a handful of sly line-deliveries as Bonnevilla’s
less-than-impressed station manager.
Arguably, Correspondents is
the perfect film to lead an almost entirely streaming life. It is diverting in
the moment, but leaves nothing behind in the subconscious. More watchable than
memorable, Special Correspondents launches
on Netflix this Friday (4/29), following its world premiere at the 2016 Tribeca
Labels: Netflix, The media on film, Tribeca '16, Vera Farmiga