Thursday, 9 April 2009

The Boat That Rocked: Movie Review

The Boat That Rocked: Movie Review

Cast: Tom Sturridge, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Nick Frost, Bill Nighy
Director: Richard Curtis

Rating: 6/10 (7/10 if you're mainly going for the soundtrack)
Sex, drugs and rock n' roll. Welcome to the sixties.
Richard Curtis has returned to the silver screen once again to write and direct The Boat That Rocked; a story about the British government trying to stop the growth of the devilishly putrid rock music (as they see it) from reaching the innocent ears of the people. For a commercial station to fight the monopoly of BBC Radio, which only plays 45 minutes of rock music a day, the station must be offshore and thus, Radio Rock is born.
The film is a nod in the direction of the influential Radio Caroline, which reshaped the industry in that period and the rebellious nature of the DJs, who live truly hedonistic lives, reflects the era and exactly what the music of that time promoted. The notion that people were carefree and intrinsically, if subtly, rebellious is made abundantly clear throughout the film with the great British people tuning in to listen to their favourite voices from Radio Rock.
For the first hour of the film the style is fun and funky, as the newcomer, Carl (Tom Sturridge) gets to know the irrepressible members on the boat. Were it not for the strength of some of the core cast, it would have been very easy for the film to completely lose its way as the narrative begins to lose shape and the sub-plots confuse us all.
Curtis' strength has been romantic comedy and even though he tries to enter some of that into the film, the character engagement with Carl is never strong enough for the audience to truly empathise with him.

He has major storylines throughout the film, finding love and discovering more about his family history, yet they seem to be small scenes randomly thrown in rather than the character taking us on an emotional journey while he's on the boat.

On the face of it, the story is really about Carl, yet just as we're getting to know him we suddenly cut away to another random sub-plot and never really resolve Carl's issues, or at least, if they are covered they are quickly glossed over. Tom Sturridge's performance was commanding when he had screen time but there wasn't enough of him on screen for the audience to really care about him.
Also, the performances from the rest of the cast were so strong, and their sub-plots so superficial, that his storylines were drowned out anyway. Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Count was his usual brilliant self, taking charge when it counted and being the one character that really showed a genuine passion for music and a deep care for his 'limey' friends.

Bill Nighy was, well, Bill Nighy. His dry wit that he has really perfected into an art form was very much at the fore and the perfect foil for Kenneth Brannagh, who became better as the film went on to the point of really being a genuinely evil character, rather than the caricature he seemed to be at the start of the film.
Sad to say, the two Rhys' (Ifans and Darby) were not great. The Kiwi star had his moments but at the end of the film we were finding out what sort of character he was by others telling us, rather than him getting to really show what he can do. Even Dave (Nick Frost) is confusing; he tries to help Carl but then subsequently betrays him, and then they're still great mates. Does anybody care about anything in this film?
The Titanic-style ending was nothing short of awfulness mixed with huge doses of cliché. Despite the criticisms of the characters, some of the dialogue has been brilliantly written and delivered with a lot of laughs emanating from the audience and when the romantic situations started to develop, some of Curtis' talents could really be seen coming through, yet the disjointed characters and storylines gave an odd sense of enjoying the film as a whole, probably due to the significance of pirate radio in the era, but with about as much care for the characters as those DJs had for the government. Not a lot.

For those who love music from that era, the soundtrack will not disappoint and for those who lived through that era (especially if living in the UK at the time) the Radio Caroline memories will return, but that's not enough to make a great film, just a good one.

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