Comedian and actor Russell Brand turns up the volume on his political voice in The Emperor’s New Clothes, the perfect follow up to his best selling book Revolution. Brand, who’s also built up quite a following for his YouTube series The Trews, has peed off the establishment while poking his barnet in where it don’t belong. However, this is a refreshing cultural figure that may just have the right voice to engage the disengaged, and start the revolution. ‘Change can happen….change does happen’ announces Brand.
The film is directed by Michael Winterbottom who’s not one to shy away from controversial topics, so he seems the perfect match for this rebellious entertainer.
They begin the film with brand reciting The Emperors New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen accompanied by visuals of British pomp and circumstance. ‘Emperor’s’ get’s right in there tackling student debt, the living wage, benefits and the ruling elite. There’s some mind boggling stats concerning the growing gap in wealth highlighting many issues that most of us try not to think about on a daily basis. One example used in the film that epitomises Brand’s key message of inequality is that of the harsh punishments laid down on looters after the London riots, compared to the completely absent punishments given to the bankers and traders who caused a financial crisis.
Brand presents this rather depressing material with provocative humour like driving a ‘shop a banker’ van around London (which mocked the police’s shop a looter slogan slathered vehicles). His sadness at the demise of his hometown of Greys, Essex rings true; while he was away getting famous, the normal people were grafting yet getting poorer. He jokes about being part of the 1% but a working class boy he will always be. I truly believe his crusade is genuine. He might be a flamboyant show off, but he’s also a recovering addict whose life could have easily gone down another route, and he knows this and I think his consciousness screams it at him every day.
Brand’s frustration and concern is real, and why shouldn’t it be. Many celebrities dip their toes into politics, but what I like about Brand is his passion, honesty and willingness to really get his hands dirty.
The Emperor’s New Clothes highlights jaw dropping injustice and inequality, while allowing for some laughs and tomfoolery from a comedian who’s genuinely prepared to get the revolution started.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is out in NZ Cinemas on limited release now.
Reviewed by Ingrid Grenar