This British TV movie is a dramatization of the lives of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, two Cambridge graduates who helped revolutionize the comedy world in the 1960s. Rhys Ifans (NOTTING HILL) plays Cook, a raffish, quick-witted young man who forms the BEYOND THE FRINGE comedy troupe with Moore (played here by Aidan McArdle), Jonathan Miller, and Alan Bennett. As this and the subsequent events in Cook and Moore's lives play out, British director Terry Johnson intersperses the action with shots of Ifans and Moore sitting in-character before a vast movie screen, where they comment on the events as they take place. Cook and Moore eventually break away from Miller and Bennett to form a comedy duo, performing in their own TV show (NOT ONLY...BUT ALSO), and as the potty-mouthed Derek & Clive, who remain two of the most vulgar comedy characters ever constructed. But as these events play out in Johnson's movie, a sadness descends as Cook constantly belittles Moore, and grows furiously jealous of the diminutive star as he forms a successful Hollywood career in movies such as 10 and ARTHUR.
Cook was widely regarded as the true genius behind the double act, and although he is the lesser-known of the two, it is he who NOT ONLY BUT ALWAYS... primarily focuses on. Ifans gives a superb performance as Cook lapses into alcoholism and regret, although it's clear that Cook was fairly happy in his final days, spending time as the editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye, finding a new wife, and making the odd appearance on British television. A fascinating tale of a truly talented duo who often berated each other like an old husband and wife would, this is a welcome cinematic re-telling of Cook and Moore's lives.