Friday, July 2, 2010

Pirate Radio

Directed by Richard Curtis.
2009. Rated R, 116 minutes.
Tom Sturridge
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Bill Nighy
Kenneth Branagh
Nick Frost
Rhys Itans
Tom Brooke
January Jones
Chris O’Dowd
Emma Thompson

In 1966, rock and roll has become extremely popular. However, British radio refuses to play it, except for a handful of pirate radio stations located off the coast and broadcasting from the North Sea. None too pleased, the British government feverishly searches for a way to shut them down.

We hunker down with the crew of Radio Rock. There ship is run pretty loosely by Quentin (Nighy). He oversees the group’s lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Our tour guide is Carl (Sturridge) who’s just been expelled from school. His mother (Thompson) has sent him to live on the boat, presumably to help straighten him out. As Quentin says, it is a “spectacular mistake.”

Mostly through Carl’s eyes we watch the group of disc jockeys lead an insane existence. It’s often very funny, sometimes sad and occasionally too ridiculous for words. No matter what the mood, music is always there to echo the sentiment. Music, more specifically bringing rock and roll to the masses, is their only care in the world. The folks making the movie care about the music, also. They did a great job piecing together the soundtrack and using songs in appropriate places.

Pretty much from top to bottom, the performances are outstanding. Bill Nighy seems to be having more fun than he has in years. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, as usual, as the lone American DJ, The Count. For my money, the man who steals the show is Nick Frost as Big Dave. Dave is one of those guys who everyone seems to love to be around but not necessarily to really be friends with. We also discover Dave has a way with the ladies, despite his girth.

The camera work is interesting as well. Whenever we’re focused on the politicians aiming to shut Radio Rock down, everything is shot in an unnoticeably normal manner. Those scenes usually start with the exterior of some impressive building before venturing inside. The camera is usually stock still, rigid as if it were a government agent, too. On the boat, the camera is often closer to the people and slightly askew. This mirrors our heroes, packed tight and rebellious. It’s a subtle reminder of rock and roll’s roots and struggles.

The end of the movie is a bit overblown, but still effective. It should be taken more as a metaphor than a literal occurrence. When we reach the climax, we realize we’ve seen two coming of age stories, Carl’s and rock and roll’s.

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