How to Get Ahead in Advertising [1989]

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
After the release of Withnail & I, British writer-director Bruce Robinson continued his satirical assault on British culture with this fiendishly funny rant, the title of which can be taken figuratively and literally as an object lesson in the art of consumer manipulation. Nobody dupes consumers better than Dennis Bagley (Richard E. Grant); his genius in crafting seductive ad campaigns has earned him a country estate, countless awards, an admiring boss, a loving wife (Rachel Ward), and, well, a gigantic boil on his shoulder that's like a throbbing zit from hell. Dennis is so tormented by a difficult campaign for pimple cream--and so filled with self-loathing after years of promoting dubious products--that his inner demon, the media-savvy and profiteering side of himself, has manifested itself as a talking pustule with a mind (and a face and a voice) of its own. Robinson's scathing critique of mindless consumerism begins with one of the funniest monologues ever written, and Grant instantly claims his role with manic perfection. A time bomb of repressed anxiety, Dennis blossoms in righteous protest against his profession, only to find his evil boil growing dominant, worrying his wife (Ward's performance is charmingly sympathetic), and inevitably seizing control. The movie's message is obvious and heavy-handed, and Robinson's blazing wit grows increasingly bilious and urgent, but you can't blame him for sniping at easy targets. As corporate synergy and rampant commercialism reach insane proportions, How to Get Ahead in Advertising grows more relevant than ever, holding a mirror to the grotesqueries of capitalism in extremis. --Jeff Shannon

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Denis Dimbleby Bagley:
We're living in a shop. The world is one magnificent fucking shop, and if it hasn't got a price tag, it isn't worth having. The Greatest freedom of all is the freedom of choice, and that's the difference between you and me, boil. I was brought up to believe in that, and so should you, but you don't want freedom, do you? You don't even want roads. God I never want to go on another train as long as I live! Roads represent the fundamental right of man to have access to the good things in life. Without roads, established family favorites would become elite as delicacies. Potter's soap would be for the few. There'd be no more tea bags, no instant potatoes, no long life cream. Chewing gum would probably disappear, so would porkpies. There'd be no aerosols, no tin spaghetti, or baked beans with six frankfurters. Foot deodorizers would climax with the hope of replacement! When the hydrolized mono-sodium glutomate reserves ran out, food would rot in its packets. Jesus Christ, there wouldn't be any more packets! Packaging would vanish from the face of the earth. But worst of all, there'd be no more cars, and more than anything, people love their cars. They have a right to them. They have to sweat all day in some stinking factory making disposable cigarette lighters or everlasting Christmas trees, by Christ, they're entitled to them! They're entitled to any innovation technology brings. Whether it's ten percent more of it or fifteen percent off of it. They're entitled to one of four important new ingredients. Why should anyone have to clean their teeth without important new ingredients? Why the hell shouldn't they have their CZT? How dare some smutty Marxist carbunkle presume to deny them it? They love their CZT! They want it, they need it, they positively adore it, and by Christ, while I've got air in my body they're going to get it! They're going to get it bigger - and brighter - and better. I'll put CZT in their margarine if necessary; shove vitamins in their toilet rolls. If happiness means the whole world standing on a double layer of foot deodorizers, I, Bagley, shall see that they get it! By God I will. I shall not cease, till Jerusalem is builded here, on England's green and pleasant lands!

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