In 1985, against the backdrop of Thatcherism, Brian Jackson enrolls in the University of Bristol, a scholarship boy from seaside Essex with a love of knowledge for its own sake and a childhood spent watching "University Challenge," a college quiz show. At Bristol he tries out for the Challenge team and falls under the spell of Alice, a lovely blond with an extensive sexual past. He's smitten, and he carelessly manages to hurt the feelings of Rebecca Epstein, a friend whose politics and wit he admires. The Challenge finale is coming up; maybe Brian can redeem himself and still avoid being a prat. Written by
The quiz teams are shown answering questions in 2 picture rounds, but in 1985 there was only 1 picture round and 1 music round in each episode of University Challenge. The 2 picture round format is a recent innovation. See more »
Some young British up and comings in a pleasant film
"Starter for 10" is a 2006 British film set in 1985 about a working class young man, Brian Jackson (James McAvoy) who attends Bristol University on scholarship and is accepted on the team of "University Challenge," a televised college quiz show. He's crazy for a hot blonde on the team, Alice (Alice Eve). After a disastrous post-Christmas visit to her house when his penchant for movie quotes gets him in trouble, he spends New Year's Eve with another girl, the more grounded and politically active Rebecca Epstein (Rebecca Hall) -- but when he wishes her Happy New Year, he calls her Alice. He has a habit of blowing it, and the best is yet to come.
I actually sought out this film because I am a huge fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. Here, Cumberbatch plays the fastidious nerdy head of the College Quiz team (even though they keep losing), and he's hilarious. When he gets into a fight with one of Brian's friends from home, the guy punches him, and Cumberbatch's response is to start flapping his hands on him as if he's shaking out a dishtowel.
The acting in this film is very good, and it's interesting to see that all these young people have come up together. Cumberbatch and Eve are in the upcoming Star Trek; Rebecca Hall and Cumberbatch starred in the miniseries "Parade's End," and McAvoy, of course, has had a marvelous career, making a splash in films right around the time this film was released. The supporting cast is led by the wonderful Lindsay Duncan and Charles Dance as Alice's parents, and Catherine Tate as Brian's mother.
While "Starter for 10" is a little predictable, it has a nice quality about it and gives one a feel for university life, leaving home, meeting new people, and the adjustments that need to be made.
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