PISSED ON THE JOB (2004)
Writer/Producer/Director: Paul Wilmshurst
DoP: Graham Smith
50 mins, Digibeta
TX January 2004
Betty TV for Channel 4
Experimental dramadoc about high-functioning alcoholics and problem drinking in the workplace. Based on the testimony of real people, with actors playing out their stories and the whole film mimicking the texture of a witty and gritty observational documentary.
With Lewis Barfoot, Ian Bartholomew, Sarah Flind, Tara Keatley, Peter McNamara
One of the best TV programmes of the year is already upon us... If you have ever woken up drunk then this will seem as terrifying and abiding as any of those 1970s nuclear war shows did when you were a child. This is where Withnail & I meets World in Action... This dramatised account of real lives lived in liquid oblivion is so well realised that if Crimewatch were produced to similar standards the streets would be empty. By degrees both horrific and hilarious, these are uncomfortably accurate depictions of urban modernity in all its hellish detail - awful schools, loud restaurants, disliked jobs, half-remembered sex and inexplicable injuries. All of this is delivered with such finesse that it's as though television were finding ever more subtle ways to alert us to our own shame.
Screen Burn, Guardian
It's official: the Brits are a nation of gibbering pissheads, with one in 13 being chronic alcoholics. In this frequently harrowing, often blackly funny film, actors portray real-life - if necessarily anonymous - case studies, including a doctor ("work's much more thrilling when you've got a hangover"), a nanny, a tube station manager, and a sad old soak of a schoolteacher, given to dragging pupils to the pub, shagging sixth formers, and (in one particularly graphic episode) throwing up over his desk in front of his disgusted charges.
If the Baftas had a category for Best Simulated Vomiting scene this would get at least two nominations, but there were less noisy triumphs of performance, too, particularly the way in which the actors captured the defiance and denial which are as indispensable to functioning alcoholics as breath mints.
I wish that actual proper dramas managed to draw the viewer into a shared experience with the same economy of means. Pissed On the Job was a miniature Odyssey across a wine-dark sea; producer/director Paul Wilmshurst actually managed to come up with a fresh format, which is no mean feat in 2004.
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read Guardian Review in full
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