The Agent Review: Page-Spurner
Have you ever wondered what wondrous novels must slip through the net, never to be published because of a literary agent’s arbitrary opinion?
No? Well, you might just now.
The Agent is the work of the once starving writer Martin Wagner, an assault on the all-encompassing power of the agent that asks “what if?”
Adapted from the stage play, it sees timid writer Stephen Parker (Stephen Kennedy) visiting his publishing agent after countless months of toiling on his difficult second novel, for the skinny on whether he’s snagged a deal.
The news isn’t good.
The novel, called ‘Black’, is rejected by chummy agent Alexander Joyce (William Beck) for being a difficult read, bleak in tone and weakly titled. Though plumber-by-day Stephen, having poured his heart out for many a moon and alienating his wife in the process of writing his meisterwerk can’t accept Alexander’s decision, and resorts to blackmail to get what he wants.
It’s a curious set up. The transition from stage to screen hasn’t been an easy one, leaving some discernible snags. While the story is good and the script is sound, a back-story of the characters of Stephen and Alexander would have inspired more audience empathy.
They appear to be in two separate productions, killing any chance of on-screen chemistry. Brash Alexander is still on stage while Stephen looks like he came out of an ITV Sunday night drama. While the idea of a mild-mannered tradesman turning to drastic measures to get his book published is a brilliant one, and just about convincing, the character of Alexander remains frustratingly mysterious.
The film never really pitches its tone so plot developments are met with incredulity. In this battle of wits, who are we supposed to be rooting for?
The pace is uneven throughout, though flourishes of brilliance are seen as the pace quickens. Some lengthy exchanges between the two characters provide illuminating tidbits about the industry, and fill some of those holes left by the lack of character history, only too late.
It’s been made on a very low budget – £24,000 – and it certainly feels that way, intrusively so. Some clumsy editing and dips in sound contribute to the wholly uneven feeling of The Agent. It feels a little bit rough and unfinished, and at a mere 84 minutes, still a little stretched.
Despite all this, it’s worth seeing, if only for a taste of what’s going on in a lesser-known corner of British cinema. It does thrill, eventually, though perhaps The Agent should have been left to the stage.