The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE MARTIN DECKER SHOW | The Movie Waffler


The Martin Decker Show review
A middle-aged man attempts to reinvent himself as an online personality.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Kevin Jones

Starring: Keiron Self, Richard Elis, Justin Evans, Lloyd Grayshon

The Martin Decker Show poster

Remember lockdown? Sour dough bread, pub quizzes on zoom, Joe Wicks in the morning, etc. Hoarding toilet roll... What were we like, eh? I've come to terms with the period as a sort of half-time on life: a moment to suck on an orange wedge and reflect on the game played, and the tactics required in the future. A necessary reset. Looking back though, I wonder how many of us regret not pushing past the crushing existential dread of it all and forcing our minds and energy and unwalled time into something creative and purposeful. You can't accuse Cardiff filmmaker Kevin Jones and erstwhile actor Keiron Self of resting on their laurels, though. In a virtue-of-necessity dynamic, during mid-2020 the two put together a YouTube series of sketches featuring fully formed comic creation Martin Decker; a semi-tragic middle-aged schlemiel who, coping badly with his impending divorce, loss of family and job, decides to reinvent himself as one of those influencers they have these days via a "TV show" filmed in his bathroom (most interior filming takes place in Jones' own house, except when further lockdown restrictions meant Self had to produce from home; a switch which the film characteristically improvises as Decker staying with his mum..!). Can there be a second act in lower middle-class, firmly middle-aged provincial life?

The Martin Decker Show review

Originally, the sketches were narrowcast on the Martin Decker YouTube channel, and consisted of frothy, fun monologues (the character has pre-lockdown roots in theatre) of the sort which trade on Self's likeability as a loveable loser attempting against insurmountable odds to make it as an internet personality. The Martin Decker Show is a compendium of these episodes, with a voiceover and extra scenes to marshal the clips into an overarching documentary narrative. Primarily in the pompous British sit-tragi-com male mode (Fawlty, Brent, Partridge) Martin Decker is yet sympathetic and throughout Self projects a specifically Welsh melancholia (I'm thinking of the Rob "star of Barbie" Brydon, Marion and Geoff stuff).

Although Martin is an explicitly male archetype, through this remove the film nonetheless plays into general insecurities regarding endorsement, the empty buzz of validation via social media and our artificial efforts towards self-actualisation. Hence the drab mise-en-scene slapstick throughout Martin's "shows," where the cramped space of the bathroom inhibits him, sets fall apart, and even his pet bearded dragon eventually refuses to perform to camera: true to the genre, the comedy derives from being trapped within a situation (here quite literally). When we laugh at Martin it is with a reassuring recognition; perhaps we perceive our own aspirational absurdity in his foibles.

The Martin Decker Show review

The sketches have a rate which is more hit than miss: we see Martin try to learn self-defence in the park with disastrous results and fly a drone about a beach with similar outcomes. Moreover, Self and Jones lace the film with genuine poignancy. To wit, while he's trying to film an OB, an ex-workmate bumps into Martin and with a bully's cruel ease just roasts our guy right there in the park. It rang true, as, especially within the desolate habituation of offices, workplaces do form hierarchies where the most unpleasant and stupid prosper unfairly. I appreciated the final act implication that this nob, played with requisite smarm by Francois Pandolfo, is probably more lost than Martin: everyone seeks to make a mark, and the ones with no courage or creativity attempt to do so by positioning themselves against others.

The Martin Decker Show review

I say, why shouldn't Martin, an everyman hero in his rumpled shirt and askew tie, seek more than his lot? Why shouldn’t any of us? Perhaps, though, in the words of Nick Berry, every loser does win, as, coming soon to theatres in the UK is the Martin Decker show in person: with the character introducing the film at various art centres across the country. Who's laughing now? Hopefully you, in the gentle thrall of this deeply human, warm and amusing confection. See you there.

The Martin Decker Show will tour UK cinemas from September 7th.

2023 movie reviews