Sunday, 4 March 2012

Niche Genres: The British Dramedy

Continuing with our tour of cinema's more niche genres, here is a look at the British Dramedy in honour of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, released last week.

What is a British Dramedy film? A British film with both comedic and dramatic elements.

Not to be confused with... British comedies (Shaun of the Dead, Johnny English) or British romantic comedies (Love, Actually, Notting Hill) or British dramas (Harry Brown, This Is England).

Trademarks of the genre: British Dramedies are typically feel-good films with catchy soundtracks and big British names on the cast list. There will be family-friendly laughs, although the overall gag-rate will be low. The light-hearted moments will be punctuated with scenes that deal with Serious Issues (growing old, unemployment, suicide, death), which is usually how the aforementioned big British names were attracted to the film in the first place. Also, expect lots of stereotypical Britishness to amuse an international audience: mainly teabags, a Brit-pop soundtrack and use of the word 'bugger'.

Examples: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (reviewed here), The Full Monty, Billy Elliott, Calendar Girls, Cemetery Junction, The Boat That Rocked.

Highlights of the Genre: if done right, a mixture of comedy and drama will guarantee you both laughs and tears: a rewarding experience for cinema-goers. The overall Britishness can be very refreshing, especially considering most films on the big screen are imported from America.

Limitations of the Genre: if done badly, rather than get the best of both worlds, you get an mediocre delivery of each genre. As such, the comedy isn't that funny and the drama isn't that moving. Also, the trailers for British dramadies usually market them as a comedy to attract a wider audience. This means that most - if not all - of the gags are crammed into the trailer.

Best Example: About A Boy - Hugh Grant delivers a career-best as proud lone-wolf Will, providing hilarious cathartic moments to counterbalance the dramatic story-lines: namely Nicholas Hoult's Marcus getting bullied and Toni Collette as his mother battling depression. Add to that an Oscar-nominated screenplay and a purpose-built soundtrack from Badly Drawn Boy and you have the perfect example of a British Dramedy.

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