At its best, this 1980s-set Brit import about a working-class Essex lad (the charming James McAvoy from The Last King of Scotland) who dreams of becoming "clever"—a goal he equates with leaving home for college and 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 of ideas is necessarily strung along and 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 (working from a script by David Nicholls) 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 nonetheless goes down easy, thanks in large part to the smorgasbord of up-and-comingtalent from across the pond (especially newcomers Eve and Hall) and a steady infusion of the Cure, Wham!, and Tears for Fears on the soundtrack that any child of the '80s will find impossible to resist. SCOTT FOUNDAS
McAvoy courts Hall.
Starter for Ten
Opens at Metro and Uptown, Fri., March 9. Rated PG-13. 99 minutes.