STARTER FOR 10 (Tom Vaughan). 92 minutes. For venues and times, see Movies, page 97. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Starter For 10 doesn't deliver anything new, but it does solidify James McAvoy's reputation as one of the most promising actors of his generation.
The slightly built McAvoy is best known for his turn as Narnia's paranoid faun and the guy who got overshadowed by the Forest Whitaker juggernaut in The Last King Of Scotland.
Here he plays Brian Jackson, a working-class kid from Essex who finds his hormones in overdrive and his attention wandering during his first year at Bristol University.
Will he score with dark-haired Jewish activist Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) or posh WASPy blond Alice (Alice Eve)? And how will he fare on the Brit TV quiz show University Challenge, where he's representing Bristol along with Alice and a handful of other misfit polymaths?
McAvoy has a genius for divided characters; his nervous eyes are great at suggesting guilt and a troubled conscience. He's beautifully cast here.
The serviceable script gains texture from its mid-1980s setting, complete with killer retro soundtrack (the Psychedelic Furs, the Smiths) and references to Margaret Thatcher's social hatchet job.
It's too bad the jokes and romantic comedy plot feel like leftovers from that era as well.