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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.7%
Worth A Look82.61%
Average: 4.35%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 4.35%

3 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Starter for Ten
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by brianorndorf

"Twas music that saved this beast"
4 stars

What do you do when you’re a first time director guiding a film that doesn’t have an ounce of originality to it? You pack it full of hits from the 1980s! And get this, it works.

A hound for academic trivia, Brian (James McAvoy) finally receives the chance to prove himself when he leaves his lonely English seaside hometown to attend Bristol University. Once there, Brian receives a rude awakening in the ways of life and love when his romantic pining is swatted down by the campus beauty (Alice Eve), and his shot at glory with an appearance on the quiz show “University Challenge” is jeopardized.

Although set in 1985, “Starter for 10” doesn’t give way to a “Wedding Singer” experience where the cast wears funny haircuts or a character holds up a Betamax tape and proclaims it the “surefire wave of the future.” “10” uses its retro crush splendidly, giving the viewer a fuzzy portrait of English academics and seaside, middle-class existence. The soundtrack is packed with hits from The Psychedelic Furs, Wham, Buzzcocks, Yaz, Tears for Fears, and The Cure. Loads of Cure. It pads the feature well, helping cradle Brian’s collegiate exploits in the bosom of some mood-setting tunes and giving unexpected life to the occasional flat scene that director Tom Vaughn is faced with.

“10” isn’t just a history of synth pop, it’s a cozy-but-common journey of love, smarts, and mistakes on a college campus. Storywise, nothing in “10” stands out with urgency; it’s a familiar cookie of laughs and romantic winces, crafted here with a fragrant Hughesian flair that saves the picture from cliché.

It’s not that Vaughn directs like John Hughes, but the same urgent tidings of freshman love could easily be matched up to anything the teen king pumped out in the mid-80s. These are characters so lost in the maze of their own lives that every heartbreak cuts like a knife and even the smallest of personal roadblocks is cause for alarm. In fact, “10” has perfect pitch when it stays close to Brian’s underdeveloped social wizardry and the mistakes that follow his lack of common sense.

The engine of “10” is powered by the lead performance from James McAvoy, a tireless young actor making a decent name for himself in recent years (“The Last King of Scotland,” “The Chronicles of Narnia”). McAvoy gets the brittle nature of Brian’s enthusiasm just right, exploring both his innocence with females and his consuming need to be right; a humorous contrast to all that is wrong with his life. It’s a great lead performance that Vaughn should thank the movie gods he was able to luck into, to give his movie some energy that doesn’t originate from a turntable.

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originally posted: 03/16/07 17:11:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2006 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2006 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Portland Film Festival For more in the 2007 Portland Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/03/18 Louise Great fun! The book is also hilarious! 4 stars
8/19/07 William Goss Genial yet flat '80s-set rom-com offers no surprises. 3 stars
1/16/07 Bitchflaps Walked out, not funny, not sweet, just retarded. 1 stars
9/16/06 Jason Kramer GO SEE IT!! Really funny! 5 stars
9/15/06 Mick McArthy Wonderfully funny 5 stars
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  23-Feb-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Jul-2007

  10-Nov-2006 (12A)
  DVD: 23-Apr-2007


Directed by
  Tom Vaughan

Written by
  David Nicholls

  James McAvoy
  Charles Dance
  Simon Woods
  Rebecca Hall
  Catherine Tate
  Elaine Tan

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