Monday, July 10, 2017
Tour de Pharmacy
Directed by Jake Szymanski and teleplay by Murray Miller from a story by Miller and Andy Samberg, Tour de Pharmacy is the story of the infamous 1982 Tour de France in which five of its top contenders did whatever it took to win while raising awareness of steroid use. Told in a documentary style, the film chronicles the notorious event as well as the people who were involved in that race as it is narrated by Jon Hamm. Starring Andy Samberg, Orlando Bloom, Freddie Highmore, John Cena, Daveed Diggs, Jeff Goldblum, Julia Ormond, Dolph Lundgren, Danny Glover, James Marsden, Will Forte, Maya Rudolph, Kevin Bacon, Phylicia Rashad, J.J. Abrams, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Mike Tyson, Joe Buck, Chris Webber, and Lance Armstrong. Tour de Pharmacy is a wild and outrageous film from Jake Szymanski.
In the 1982 Tour de France, one of the most notorious cycling races occurred as many of the riders participating in the event were all taking some kind of drugs in which five of them were able to continue as this documentary on these five racers are profiled in this film as four of them talk about the race. The film is a mockumentary about a fictional moment in racing as it’s told in a documentary style similar to what HBO sports does as well as ESPN’s 30 for 30 series. The film follow the events in the 1982 Tour de France in which many of its participants paid the then-UCI president Ditmer Klerken (Kevin Bacon) $50,000 in exchange to not be tested as Klerken would use the money to pay off his massive credit card debts. Among those that didn’t pay Klerken were the five riders who would be able to continue the race till the end as the ones who did pay Klerken were all disqualified.
Among these five participants who would continue the race are the American cyclist Slim Robinson (Daveed Robinson/Danny Glover), the Nigerian cyclist Marty Haas (Andy Samberg/Jeff Goldblum), the Austrian cyclist Gustav Ditters (John Cena/Dolph Lundgren), the French cyclist Adrian Baton (Freddie Highmore/Julia Ormond), and the Italian cyclist JuJu Peppi (Orlando Bloom). Four of them would talk about the event that happened many years ago as Baton was really a woman disguised as a man so she can participate in the Tour de France as she was also on some drugs. Murray Miller’s script doesn’t just go into this back-and-forth narrative of the riders talking about the event but also the event itself as it also features commentary from an anti-doping agency head in Stu Ruckman (Nathan Fielder) as well as filmmaker J.J. Abrams and boxing legend Mike Tyson. The latter of which reveals his own original aspirations to be a cyclist until someone stole his bike and he beat the shit out of the guy.
Jake Szymanski’s direction definitely owe a lot to not just the documentary style of most documentary sport films but also has elements of French New Wave to play into France’s own coverage of the sport but also 1980s television. Notably as Szymanski uses some grainy video footage of the race which was covered by the BBC and its reporter Rex Honeycutt (James Marsden) as many of the compositions in the film are straightforward. The present-day scenes with the older bikers and some of the people interviewed including an anonymous racer (Lance Armstrong) as that interview is played for laughs in trying to conceal the identity of this racer. The film also play into some of the outrageous moments as it’s narrated by Jon Hamm that include a few animated sequences including one story about red blood cells that is created by a controversial animator in Victoria Young (Phylicia Rashad). Szymanski’s direction becomes more outrageous as the story goes on whether it’s Ditters on roid-rage or Peppi having to urinate while riding. It all plays into craziness of what goes on in the Tour de France. Overall, Szymanski creates an over-the-top yet exhilarating film about one of the most notorious races in the history of Tour de France.
Cinematographer Craig Kief does excellent work with the film’s cinematography from the clear and stylish look of the present-day interviews to the grainy VHS look of the race itself. Editors Michael Giambra, Daniel Reitzenstein, and Bijan Shams do amazing work with the editing with its usage of jump-cuts for the French coverage as well as some of the more straightforward elements in the interviews. Production designer Almira Corey, with set decorator Izzy Ross and art director Jen Dunlap, does fantastic work with the look of the set for the interviews as well as a massage room for the five riders to be in. Costume designer Romy Itzigsohn does some nice work with the look of the spandex costumes of the riders as well as the clothes they wear when they’re older.
The hair/makeup work of Annie Cardea, K.T. Chandler, Megan Nicholl, and Adina Sullivan do brilliant work with the look of the characters from the fake-drawn mustache of the young Baton to the crazy hairstyles of some of the characters including Peppi’s blond goatee. Visual effects supervisor Daniel Barone does terrific work with some of the visual effects in some of the photos as well as the look of the VHS footage. Sound designer Ken Cain does superb work with the sound in the way some of the fighting is presented as well as the VHS tapes. The film’s music by Gregory James Jenkins is wonderful as it play into the period of cheesy music that often accompany sporting events during the 1980s.
The casting by Susie Farris is great as it feature appearances from Joe Buck, Mike Tyson, filmmaker J.J. Abrams, and basketball legend Chris Webber as themselves talking about the event while Lance Armstrong is hilarious as the anonymous racer who talks about all of the things that happened at Tour de France that involves doping. Other notable small roles include Phylicia Rashad as the controversial animator Victoria Young, Maya Rudolph as a cycling magazine editor who lusts for cyclists, Will Forte as a French policeman who accidentally injects himself with amphetamines, and Kevin Bacon in a terrific performance as the former UCI president Ditmer Klerken who would waste all of his money on things that would amass into a big credit card debt. Nathan Fielder is fantastic as an anti-doping agency head who reveal what effects the drugs would do while Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is superb as Hass’ childhood neighbor who really hates Hass. James Marsden is excellent as the BBC reporter Rex Honeycutt as the man covering the event as well as doing what he can to interview the cyclists during the race.
Daveed Diggs and Danny Glover are brilliant in their respective roles as the younger and older version of Slim Robinson as the nephew of Jackie Robinson who was eager to become the first black cyclist to compete at Tour de France with Diggs being quite brash while Glover is more reserved yet both are very funny. Dolph Lundgren and John Cena are amazing in their respective roles as the younger and older version of Gustav Ditters with Lundgren as a more calm yet enjoyable approach as the older Ditters yet it is Cena who is a fucking riot as the overly-excited and roid-rage version of Ditters who would also use a mysterious substance. Freddie Highmore and Julia Ormond are marvelous in their respective roles as the younger/older version of Adrian Baton with Highmore as a young woman pretending to be a man with a drawn mustache and fake boobs while Ormond is just very straightforward as Adrianna Baton though where she’s interviewed is very surprising.
Andy Samberg/Jeff Goldblum are remarkable in their respective roles as the younger and older version of Marty Hass with Samberg as this very outrageous young version who is trying to prove that he’s a true African when he’s really hated by actual Africans while Goldblum is just funny in how laid-back he is. Finally, there’s Orlando Bloom in a hilarious performance as Juju Peppi as the Italian cyclist who is considered the best as he is willing to do whatever he can to win as Bloom just play him for laughs and delivers in every way.
Tour de Pharmacy is a phenomenal film from Jake Szymanski. Not only is it a hilarious mockumentary short about the world of doping in cycling but also play into the things that are just shocking but in a very funny way. In the end, Tour de Pharmacy is a sensational from Jake Szymanski.
Related: 7 Days in Hell
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