I was so terrible at reading last week that, on Saturday, I decided I need to find a quick read to race through before Monday. That is the only reason that I’ve strayed from my Halloween related reads. I bought this book as soon as it came out because I was so excited about it. I’ve got both of Richard Ayoade’s last books and could not wait to get his third. I absolutely love his weird and dry sense of humour. It’s what I like to imagine that I’m like but, in reality, I’m much meaner and less funny than he is. I also don’t have quite such impressive hair or such a strong dress sense.
I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of watching View From the Top so, as soon as I discovered that it was going to be the topic for Richard Ayoade’s third book, I knew I had to read this book. It was nearly 15 years ago now but I am still haunted by that film. The horrible orange outfit that Gwyneth and the cringe-inducing singalong during the credits. The film was badly made, badly written, and badly acted. We laughed our way through it. Definitely not something you can easily forget. And don’t get me started on the feminist issues that the film raises or we’ll be here all night. Whatever I think about the film, I was super excited to see Ayoade break it down into minute detail. His last two books have shown us how much of cinephile he is but this book looks set to take it even further.
And it is a glorious thing. Ayoade on Top is a masterful mix of incredibly silly and insightful. Yes, Ayoade takes a comedic approach and is sarcastic in his approach. However, there is so much detail about filmmaking here. Something that isn’t hard to believe considering how good a director he is and how knowledgeable about cinema. I think there is a huge disconnect between the way some people see Ayoade and who he is in real life. Or at least who he is in interviews. I’ve not had the pleasure of coming face-to-face with him which is probably a good thing. I’d definitely put him off. I suspect the majority of people expect him to be like Moss from The IT Crowd but get him talking about films and it’s all flipped. Watch him making his film picks in the Criterion closet and you get a bit of a sense of just how deep his passion goes.
But I digress. This book may be written as humour but the analysis of this film is very real. Okay, not really in the sense that he agrees with what he’s saying but the theory is there. The understanding of how a film is put together and the little details that make it. Yes, it’s indulgent but it’s also refreshing. Most importantly it’s really funny. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much reading before. It’s such a perfectly written book. Thanks to the premise, it’s such a tightly written piece of comedy. The little asides and footnotes add just enough without ever taking away from the main thread. It’s a clever piece of writing and it’s engaging. It was so easy to read and I never felt aware of the time passing. You get caught up in the journey and just enjoy hearing Ayoade’s voice.
And don’t even tell me that you didn’t read this hearing his voice in your head. This is pure Ayoade. Nobody else could have written a book like this and nobody will be able to replicate it. It manages to be utterly sincere whilst simultaneously being completely tongue-in-cheek. It feels impossible but it works so well. Ayoade is present on every page, which makes it feel incredibly personal. And the book does offer some insight into who Ayoade was when growing up. It’s not exactly a biography but we get some insight into what it was like for him. Maybe some idea of what shaped him. You get a sense of how he came to be the slightly strange (and I say that lovingly) person he is now.
It’s definitely not important to have seen View from the Top before you read this film. It might give you an extra insight but it would also mean you have to live with having seen View from the Top. And, believe me, that’s not something you want to force upon yourself. Not knowing what we didn’t know back then. There is still plenty to enjoy here. The humour won’t appeal to everyone I know. However, it will appeal to those that enjoy a bit of surreal and, for lack of a better term, “whacky” comedy. A must-read for any lover of films, Ayoade, or good writing.