The Emperor's New Clothes
Russell Brand takes centre stage in this passionate and timely documentary
Whatever your personal feelings towards comedian Russell Brand, this entertaining 'agit-doc' is well worth a watch in the run-up to the general election on 7 May. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, The Emperor's New Clothes takes aim at a handful of specific targets – primarily wage inequality and corporate tax avoidance – and scores a number of very effective hits.
Structurally, the film incorporates five main elements: a direct-to-camera address by Brand, as if you're watching a politically themed one man show; facts and figures, accompanied by archive footage; a visit to Brand's economically downtrodden home town of Grays in Essex; a series of interviews with those at the lower end of the wage scale, from supermarket employees to cleaners and a woman with cerebral palsy; and likeable Michael Moore-style pranks, such as attempting to interview the heads of RBS and HSBC about their bonuses, or driving around the City with a megaphone and a billboard that reads 'Shop a banker today'.
Brand's enthusiasm for the subject is evident, as is his touching affinity with his interviewees. It's fair to say that some of the film's gimmicks work better than others (an attempted illustration of wealth distribution with a room full of young children doesn't really come off) but, for the most part, he's talking sense and the film benefits from sticking to a simple 'things can change' message. Thankfully it also completely ignores Brand's recent exhortations not to vote – instead his proposed solutions include higher taxes for the rich (which, he admits, includes himself) and a fair living wage for everyone.
It's likely that, for a substantial part of the audience, Brand will be preaching to the converted, but this is still an impassioned and engaging polemic that provokes righteous rage against the current system.
Selected release from Fri 24 Apr.