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Film Review by Tom Pride

Pride’s Purge is taking a break from satire to bring you a review of the excellent Oscar winning film based on UK politics- The Con Artist.

The Con Artist

Cert PG, 20months

Westminster, 2012: As Tory star David Vameron wonders if the emergence of sound from his previously silent backbenchers will cause him to fade into oblivion, he sparks with Nicky Cleggy, an adorable performing dog.

Uplifting, heart-warming, hilarious… not necessarily words you’d expect to apply to a film about a Tory Prime Minister. And The Con Artist is no exception. The nostalgic story of a public school era Tory politician in Westminster, it’s a stereotype-affirming tribute to the recent history of Conservative politics.

Wonderfully stylish, it mimics the look and feel of classic toffy-nosed Tory politics – complete with plenty of cuts, a soundtrack full of upper-class twits and old-fashioned titles for party supporters.

Comic actor David Vameron plays The Prime Minister, the sharp-suited toast of Torytown, an amusingly vain fellow who’s quick with a patronising quip, and has a tap dance for every occasion but is popular with the public just as long as he remains silent about what his real political agenda is.

Opening a new government, he’s jostled by photographers and adoring fans, including Nicky Cleggy, an adorable performing dog who’s as perky as his name suggests.

After an innocent encounter between Vameron and Cleggy is snapped, Vameron’s right-wing is less than amused, but it presents Nicky the performing dog with a stepping stone to the success he craves.

Vameron’s delighted to encourage him, until something happens to politics: the emergence of sound from the backbenchers. Suddenly, silent Tory politics is out and a new breed of talking Tories are in. Vameron has to accept the demands of the new vocal right – but what will become of him now the public can hear what he really thinks about things such as fox hunting, gay marriage and Europe?

Although it attempts to be a touching rise-and-fall story, with his effortless smarminess and cheerful patronising, Vameron’s an easy character not to give a toss about. But there’s a genuine chemistry between The Con Artist and Cleggy his adorable performing dog, who cheerfully continues to perform to the public, seemingly oblivious to the weaknesses of his master and the storm clouds gathering around him.

Despite the fact The Con Artist has already bagged a host of awards and seems on track for Oscar attention, I feel it hard to take seriously the basic premise of the film – that British voters could believe an upper-class Eton-educated Tory politician would really be different from any of the previous Conservative Prime Ministers of the past. Could British voters really be that stupid? It’s just too far-fetched to be at all believable.

But if you like slasher movies – containing explicit scenes of heartless brutality and cut after bloodthirsty cut – you’ll like ‘The Con Artist’.


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