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'Starter for 10'

It its best, this 1980s-set Brit import about a working-class Essex lad (a charming James McAvoy) who dreams of becoming "clever"—a goal he equates with achieving success on the long-running U.K. quiz show University Challenge—channels the scrappy, outsider charm of its own protagonist. At its worst, it proffers a reductively classist worldview in which our bright young man is betrayed by a beautiful, upper-crust WASP goddess (Alice Eve), only to find solace in the arms of an earthy (and no less beautiful) Jewess protest chick (Rebecca Hall). In his debut feature, the young Scottish director Tom Vaughan consciously strives for the offbeat mix of comedy, romance, and small-town eccentricity that once distinguished the films of his countryman Bill Forsyth. The result is something altogether more formulaic, but Starter for 10nonetheless goes down easy, thanks in large part to the up-and-coming talent from across the pond and a steady infusion of the Cure, Wham!, and Tears for Fears on the soundtrack.

 
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