STARTER FOR 10
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.
L to R: James McAvoy as Brian Jackson and Rebecca
Hall as Rebecca in
STARTER FOR 10
Photo credit: Giles Keyte
© 2006 Picturehouse

I had to laugh when I was reading the press
notes for
STARTER FOR 10, an enjoyable
analogy for the television quiz show that is at
the heart of the piece, the notes (and therefore
some of the reviews) make reference to  
Jeopardy! Well, in fact University Challenge,
the real-life show within this movie, was
actually based on the American television
program
College Bowl, which left the airwaves
in 1970 but continues to exist.

The film, adapted by David Nicholls from his
first novel of the same name (originally
published in the US as
A Question of
Attraction
), centers on Brian Jackson (James
McAvoy), a bright working class kid who is
obsessed with the TV quiz show. Set in the
mid-1980s,
STARTER FOR 10 recreates the
period fairly faithfully. Brian arrives at the
University of Bristol and promptly meets two
women who are as different as night and day.
Rebecca Epstein (Rebecca Hall, who was seen
as Christian Bale's wife in
THE PRESTIGE) is a
proto-feminist who participates in campus
rallies. She's darkly attractive and appeals to
Brian's intellectual side. Then there's Alice
Harinson (Eve Best), a posh blonde who clearly
appeals to Brian's baser instincts. That Alice is
also interested in participating on the
University Challenge team only makes her
more appealing.

Under Tom Vaughan's solid direction, the cast
does yeoman work and elevates this genial
romantic comedy to a higher level. In addition
to a strong anchor performance from McAvoy
(who is fast becoming one of the UK's best
actors), there's terrific support from Catherine
Tate as Brian's mother, Dominic Cooper (last
seen in
THE HISTORY BOYS) as Brian's
unemployed mate Spencer, and Benedict
Cumberbatch (of
AMAZING GRACE) as the
uptight leader of the school's quiz team. Mark
Gatiss does a credible job as Bamber
Gascoigne, the host of
University Challenge.

STARTER FOR 10 proves to be an enjoyable if
lightweight entertainment. Although it's pretty
clear which young lady Brian should end up
with, it's fun watching him figure it out for
himself.  


Rating:             B-
MPAA Rating:    PG-13 for sexual content,
                           language and a
                           scene of drug use
Running time:   96 mins.