|Starter For 10|
James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Alice Eve, Catherine Tate, Dominic Cooper, Charles Dance, Lindsay Duncan
Adapted for the screen by David Nicholls from his own novel and directed in lively fashion by Tom Vaughan, the droll, semi-sweet British comedy "Starter for 10" is one of the better coming-of-age movies to come down the motorway in a while. It follows the undergrad experiences of Brian a hapless, nerdy, yet determined working-class lad from an economically-strapped seaside town during the mid-1980s when Margaret Thatcher still reigned as England's prime minister. Brian has a sharp memory and, since childhood, he's nurtured an obsession with televised quiz programs, particularly "University Challenge," a "College Bowl"-type show that his late father enjoyed. With diligence, Brian accumulates a massive store of general knowledge and specific trivia, which helps gain him entry to Bristol University. But he believes that the only way he can stand out next to his cooler or more posh classmates is if he makes the school's quiz team and leads them to victory on "University Challenge." James McAvoy, best known as the young doctor attending Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in "The Last King of Scotland," is amusing and charming as Bryan. His self-deprecating nature, vulnerability, and underdog status get you on his side, even when he displays some serious lapses in judgment. A well-chosen supporting cast includes sketch-comedy doyenne Catherine Tate as Brian"s mum; and Rebecca Hall ("The Prestige") and Alice Eve as two very different coeds who divide Brian's affections. And the period soundtrack bursting with the appropriate UK alt-rock sounds of the day such as The Cure, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen, Tears for Fears, and The Smiths does a spot-on job of reinforcing time and place.