Directed by: #BillyMorton
Written by: Billy Morton
The mockumentary is undoubtedly one of the most fruitful film genres of the last decade. From the masterful What We Do in the Shadows to the outrageously perplexing Trash Humpers, it has inevitably appeared under an erratic range of guises during its boom. Yet despite this supposed saturation of the mockumentary, Billy Morton’s Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire provides a fresh perspective of its possibilities even as it depends upon familiar tropes.
Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire chronicles the experiences of hopelessly amateur ‘grime artist’ Whiskey Stone (real-name Bertie Pinkerton-Smythe). Whereas grime has garnered traction for its representation of Britain’s alienated urban populations, Stone’s milieu is completely antithetical to his own music. As a resident of a quaint albeit affluent Berkshire parish, his music is just as incongruous to his surroundings as he himself is to grime. With little plot to speak of, it is the Stone’s preposterous demeanour and exploits that drive much of the film’s humour and pathos.
Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire is an undeniably fun viewing experience. It is not just because the film is hilarious, but due to the film’s writer, editor and director, Billy Morton astute awareness of how to use film’s unique means to intuitively craft his brand of wit. Fresh perspectives within the mockumentary are what prevent it from becoming a stale mode of filmmaking and Morton’s work is no exception. Mockumentary is therefore a powerful tool for satire and is used in Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire to a certain extent demonstrate a crucial contemporary concern: the incongruity of the social-class appropriation.
The zaniness of director Billy Morton’s screenplay has its comedic potential maximised by actor Wilf Anderton. Through his effortless performance as the socially oblivious Whiskey Stone are made to dread every potential action and word of the wannabe rapper. Simultaneously however, the audience do not come to despise Stone as he continues his misguided path of cultural appropriation. This is because Anderton plays the part with a contagious though complex childlike ignorance rather than a sense of entitlement. As such, this prevents the character from becoming a mere unlikable caricature of the typical Oxbridge prep-boy thereby maintaining necessary appeal throughout the film’s more wincing moments.
Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire is a well-structured comedy of which the flawless creative connection cast and crew is responsible. Nonetheless, although one sympathises with the film's potential time constraints, the final product does not quite deliver a comprehensive enough development of this unique perspective. The innovative plot regrettably blends in amidst the perpetual wave of mockumentaries.
Thus, the film should be seen as a work for Morton to build upon rather than as the finished article. If so, Straight Outta Compton, Berkshire could one day be considered an early blueprint of a great cinematic satire that is refreshingly attuned to the millennial zeitgeist.