Adapting a classic novel to the screen can be awkward, but not here, as director Michael Winterbottom fashions a film as inspired as its source. Lawrence Sterne's Tristram Shandy has earned its cult status legitimately, and the movie--in which the actors play not only Sterne's characters, but also versions of themselves--will do the same. This play-within-a-play approach isn't exactly new, but the director runs with it, thanks largely to the cleverness of Martin Hardy's script.
So, British comic actor Steve Coogan plays not only the film's hero and his father, but also himself. Well, sort of. Same with Rob Brydon as his dim-witted brother, and as a passive-aggressive version of himself. The movie is filled with great performances in small parts: Naomie Harris as the eager-to-please intern, Kelly Macdonald as Coogan's poised girlfriend. Even Gillian Anderson gets into the act, playing herself and having a priceless moment on the telephone. Though some might say this movie thinks it's all so clever--even the music incorporates references--those who prefer their cinema thick with in-jokes, metaphor, allusion and, well, literary pretension, are bound to adore this Story.
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