Aidan Gillen plays “that bloke off the telly” in a meandering and meta character study of a struggling actor.
With notable appearances in TV shows such as Game of Thrones and The Wire, as well as appearing in 2016’s surprise hit film, Sing Street, Aidan Gillen is becoming more and more of a household name. The big screen undoubtedly beckons an actor of his talents, and appearing in this low budget indie sees Gillen send up himself, as well as his profession; tongue firmly in cheek.
By no coincidence, Gillen plays a character called “Aidan”, and whilst it sets the scene for him playing an exaggerated version of himself (think a less surreal Being John Malkovich) with its mockumentary style and voiceover narrative, it begins to dip its toe in and out of the real world and the film world, with the lines becoming increasingly blurred as the film progresses. Suffering with insomnia and back-pain, there is the sense that Aidan is feeling increasingly isolated in a world where it seems every person on the street knows who he is, even if it is mostly just “you’re that bloke off the telly”.
Whilst the fan encounters veer wildly from normal, to hilarious, to deranged, Aidan commits himself to becoming more and more method in order to identify with the current character he is playing; a serial killer. The opening scene is initially shocking – with a subtle nod to the sometimes violent sex scenes of Game of Thrones – eventually giving way to a wry laugh as it is revealed to be a scene for a film. However, as the film progresses, and Aidan takes his “method acting” even more seriously, the perception of what is reality and what is fiction becomes harder to distinguish.
It is worth noting that the humour of this film is absolutely jet black, and this will not suit all tastes. It is the sort of film in which an actor playing a serial killer becomes so method he ends up drowning a friend in a bowl of cereal; and of course there is a “cereal/serial” joke made about this beforehand.
Despite its promising set-up, Pickups sadly fails to deliver; often feeling directionless, unnecessarily meandering, and clumsy in the execution of its meta ideas. It’s low budget style feels distinctly un-cinematic, and at times seems more like an episode of Ricky Gervais’ Extras, but with ideas far weightier than a sitcom format would allow. It’s shifts in tone are jarring, and the initial “mockumentary” style, especially the voiceover, feels out of place.
That being said, Aidan Gillen is on fine form, and at only 74 minutes long, it never outstays it’s welcome. On paper it is a deconstruction of the mindset and methods of an actor, the pitfalls of fame, and the struggles of switching off the fantasy to be back in the real world. Flitting between gritty and funny, and toying with the ideas of reality and fiction, Pickups is certainly an interesting watch, but sadly not one which translates too well onto the big screen. Worth a watch, but perhaps wait to see it at home.