Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge was a very complicated film to make. Alan as a character has a 22-year long history, born on radio before graduating to television and, now, to film. Balancing his long history with those in the know are those who have never met Alan before. So Alan Partridge had to simultaneously make loyal fans happy and introduce new viewers to the canon. Amazingly, and to the surprise of even Steve Coogan, himself, the film succeeds in everything it set out to do.

Alan Partridge is the radio DJ of a regional show. His shows asks the important questions, such as “what smell would you miss the most if you could never smell again?” Alan’s general hapless ineptitude manages to be endearing rather than off-putting. His career winding down, he basks in the small local fame, relishing any moment in the spotlight. Alan views his position as DJ is the most important thing in his life. This much is made clear when his comfortable position is put in danger by the takeover of his radio station and Alan happily sacrifices someone to save himself. But when that fired coworker comes back to the station with a vengeance, Alan is stuck in the middle of a hostage situation. And as only Alan Partridge can, he begins to enjoy the attention when the spotlight finally returns. If you don’t believe that hostage situations are farcical, you haven’t met Alan Partridge.

There are some truly dark moments on display in the hostage situation. The decision to put Alan in a tough situation was Steve Coogan’s intention, and this was one of the least offensive options. An alternative idea was to have the radio station be taken over by Al Qaeda, Coogan explained in a September 28 press conference for the film (watch video here). With the fiercely British humor, it works. Alan is at his best when he is under pressure and still trying to wrangle a way to benefit from the situation. Between Alan trying to balance his enraged ex-coworker, the hostages, and the police, he finds all sorts of way to get himself into more trouble.

Steve Coogan and Gavin Smith discussing the film in Alice Tully Hall. Photo by Richard Jopson

Steve Coogan made a point of trying not to cater to the American audience. Alan Partridge is not the prototypical protagonist. He is selfish and self-serving, as is made perfectly clear over the course of the film. It’s a comedy that’s new to American cinema, and it feels fresh even with such an established character.

In its review of the film, The Independent writes,  “[Alan Partridge] plays to the character's strengths, giving him reams of carefully honed comic writing disguised as casual malapropisms and off-the-cuff banter.” And it truly is in the writing that the film shines. Explained Steve Coogan at the press conference, “Alan, He's sort of like an annoying relative that you quite like to see on holidays but you don't want to live with them… when you write for the character it becomes very intense. Because it's like being in a room with Alan Partridge for several months, which is really quite annoying after a while. You have to walk away, but after a while I sort of start to miss him.” And after meeting Alan Partridge, it is easy to see why he would.

Alan Partridge
Director: Declan Lowney

Section: Official Selection
Screens: October 7

NYFF Official Description:

Those who have hungered for the long-gestating big-screen debut of Steve Coogan’s singular comic creation need wait no longer: Alpha Papa has landed and it is uproariously funny. Since 1994, the BBC’s four series The Day Today, Knowing Me Knowing You, I’m Alan Partridge and Midmorning Matters have chronicled the hilarious downward trajectory of the vain and obliviously tactless Alan Partridge, from failed television talk-show host to obnoxious regional radio broadcaster, mercilessly skewering English mediocrity and media ineptitude along the way. When the staff of Radio Norwich is seized at gunpoint by down-sized DJ Pat (Colm Meaney), a siege scenario somewhere between Dog Day Afternoon and Die Hard is set in motion and Alan is obliged to risk his life by serving as the intermediary. As events escalate, our blunderingly self-aggrandizing hero is not entirely unhappy to find himself at the center of a media circus: can he save the day and, more importantly, resuscitate his career? All together now: “A-ha!” A Magnolia Pictures release.