A Fantastic Fear of Everything (2012)

When we reviewed The Rum Diaries back in oh so bleeding long ago, one our main complaints was that Bruce Robinson’s screenplay just didn’t capture the feel of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing. Well, there seems to be some sort of universal balance at play as Chris Hopewell and Crispian Mills’ A Fantastic Fear of Everything tries to ape Robinson’s own work with about the same amount of success.

Simon Pegg plays Jack, a children’s author trying to branch out and write the next big murder mystery. Unfortunately, as a result of his intense research into the dark underbelly of London, Jack has developed Scelerophobia, a fear of being murdered or attacked. With phone calls from his publisher misinterpreted as threats upon his person, he has begun a battle against a window that won’t stay shut and refuses to leave his flat for fear of being murdered. His life now consisting of trying to write his novel in between checking the perimeter of his living room every five minutes, ever fearful that the non-descript attacker in his woolly head will become flesh. Soon, the unimaginable happens, Pegg finds himself bereft of clean underwear and with a realisation that he has to man up and go to the launderette; a place he’s had a fear of since he was a child.

That really is the plot.

With his trademarked high pitched squeaking, shouting and flip-flopping between anger and despair, there’s enough in the first 15 minutes of Everything to keep Pegg fans happy. It’s just after those 15 minutes, the film really starts to struggle. As Jack potters about in his grubby underwear like a male Miss Havisham – refusing to see friend, lover or anyone he may have to interact with – there isn’t very much for Pegg to do except mumble and throw himself into closed doors. 2009’s Bunny and The Bull has a similarly troubled hero who refuses to leave his abode and yet the secret to what made him this way is part of the plot and joy of the film. With Everything, we’re told up front what Pegg’s problem is. Yes, there are flashbacks to a life before his self-imposed house arrest and a suggestion that something else is at fault, but they don’t really add anything accept an excuse for an emancipated Pegg to shout Cu… Well, a swearword. That’s all you need to know.

The reason why we mentioned the scribbler of Withnail and I earlier is that this is loosely based on his novella, Paranoia in a Launderette. It also appears to be loosely based on Robinson’s unique rhythm and style, as Pegg’s narration fluctuates between McGann’s over thinking calm and Grant’s grating anger. Indeed, when Pegg finally does reach the Launderette, his impression of Withnail just needs a scarf from the clan of McFuck to seal the deal.

Ah, yes, the launderette scene. What in essence could be a short film, it raises many a titter as Pegg fights valiantly with the buildings inanimate washing machines and the inanimate features of its patrons. It’s genuinely entertaining and the best part of the film. It’s a shame it’s book-ended by an opening and closing of lacklustre plotting. When we get into the third act, our dual directors throw everything at the screen – slo-mo camera angles, jaunty pop songs and even stop motion animation – to try and help the film limp its way to the finishing line. With an ill-advised love story and a twist crowbarred in for no good reason but to give the film some tension, when the credits roll, you’ll wonder what better way you could have spent your time.

It’s great to see that Simon Pegg doing independent movies, but this really isn’t the vehicle for him. This self described ‘semi-comedy’ is just not interesting enough to return to. A curiosity at best, you’re wise to avoid this and run with Bunny and the Bull.

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