When I spot a comedy on a festival program, it is not that hard to get me through the door. They are generally pretty rare, so the Australian premiere of Kebab and Horoscope (2014) made my list for CIFF 2014.
This is a film that wants you to know how quirky it is. In the opening, a kebab shop worker and horoscope writer quit their jobs on the same day (the former because the latter wrote in his column to do so). With absolutely no real explanation as to why, the two of them team up and pretend to run a marketing company trying to revitalise a carpet shop with no business. The shop is populated by extremely quirky characters – the old vulgar dude, the owner who likes attempting to have sex with everyone who works there, the young lazy dude, the straight-laced receptionist who is a closet hippy and the young woman dealing with her quirky mother who has come to stay and won’t leave. It all seems to be trying a little too hard and in the end it comes off as just being pretty boring really. As if it wasn’t tired enough, it utilises a chapter structure too, which is becoming such an overused trope. It rarely adds anything at all to a film and so it is with this one, merely serving to frustrate the viewer, or at least me, even more. The film also falls victim to thinking that if your characters talk about social issues, your script has a level of depth to it. Not so, this is as shallow and un-insightful as comedy gets.
Kebab and Horoscope is what I would a little dismissively call standard festival fare. It is not meant to denigrate festival organisers of any kind, but films like this seem to always crop up. For comedies, this generally involves being non-English language and ‘quirky’. Which obviously describes a lot of really excellent films. But also some really terrible ones that slip through the cracks for one reason or another. This is one of those. The script seems to confuse something being slightly strange or not ‘normal’ as being uproariously funny. There is almost a mean-spiritedness to some of the plot points that we are meant to find funny – the old dude in the shop telling a young female employee how if he was younger he would have had so much sex with her – is played straight and is meant to be funny. Yeah, cause sexual harassment jokes in the workplace are tops. Outside of those moments (there is also rape scene that is also played slightly comedically, that just comes out of nowhere) the rest of the film just feels very staid and flat. This was made even clearer by the dead silence that the film elicited from the crowd at each of its big joke moments. Actually the film got one of the deader reactions from a crowd that I have seen from a comedy. There was even a walkout that I saw. I sit really close to the screen so rarely see walkouts, but one dude in front of me gave up on this one after about 15 minutes. I never walk out of films and am never really tempted. But I had to fight pretty hard to keep my arse glued to the seat for this one.
Verdict: There are plenty of reasons I didn’t enjoy Kebab and Horoscope, but the main one is that it is a desperately unfunny comedy with a vulgar script. There is desperately little of note here and consequently very little to recommend. Schooner of Tooheys New