My father was born in August, 1950. He would have been the prime age to appreciate the British music invasion of the 60’s. He would have helped usher in the era of long hair, short pants, and hip-cat glasses. That fleeting moment of cultural time right after the swell 50’s and just before the cynical 70’s when Vietnam was real, but had not yet come home. When hem lines shrunk, kids started to rebel, and music began to cross racial and coastal lines to blend together and become real music. He would have, had he not been perpetually stuck in the 30’s and 40’s.
For some people, music was, is and always will be their life. It is the therapy to which they turn when they need to connect with someone else on a deeper level. There is a song to go along with every moment of their life. And most likely they got this from their parents. I was not one of these people. Music was played in my house to make you happy. It kept up the beat of the everyday. Never did I lock myself up in my room and wail along with a sad song because, well, let’s face it, the music of the early nineties kinda sucked. I’m sure many appreciated the harmony of Boys 2 Men, but I didn’t.
It’s all about what you’re exposed to. The music my dad had playing out in the garage while he worked on this or that was usually swing or big band. I sang along to “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Bei Mir Bistu Shein”…please let me explain. Seriously. There’d be a little Ricky Nelson, he was a fan of Sam Cooke, and of course, he did order me a cassette tape of “The Best of The Monkees.” As far as the music he should have passed on from his generation—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who—well those were a bunch of long-haired hippies.
My husband comes from a family where his father was a roadie for The Doobie Brothers and his mother worked for Rolling Stone. He had bands betting on whether he would come out a boy or a girl. Music has always been a part of his life so there is a source from where his appreciation comes that I simply don’t have.
I say all of this because PIRATE RADIO could be a movie about music. Indeed, you could say that the music plays a supporting part, should be credited after Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bill Nighy. And if anyone else was writing this review, it would be about the music. But you are stuck with me. And I can only write about the characters, the story, and mention that the movie has a kick-ass soundtrack.
Tonight was the second time I bought my over-priced ticket and saw PIRATE RADIO—this time with my mother. That speaks volumes. The last time I saw a movie twice was the first time Christian Bale donned the Batman costume.
The advertisements for PIRATE RADIO are misleading. You are lead to believe that Phillip Seymour Hoffman is the star of the movie and don’t get me wrong, he is a beacon in the role he plays so well of the laid-back, indifferent, too-cool-for-school music maven. But the storyline actually follows Young Carl, played by the much lesser known Tom Sturridge. He actually may only be known to many as the best friend of one ridiculously famous teen vampire, but it is Mr. Sturridge who really sparkles. And not in the lame way that word suggests. The story of Young Carl is that of an eighteen-year old man sent by his mother to live on a boat anchored in the North Sea where rock and roll is broadcasted to the 25 million British citizens who are deprived of the music by their own government. Carl has since grown up without ever knowing his father and now that he has reached the pivotal point of his life, standing on the dock of adulthood, he finds himself on a ship where any one of the crazy cast of degenerate characters could be his father. It is here where he finds acceptance, loses his virginity (the occasion being announced over the airwaves to the million listeners,) and discovers a family.
Brought to the screen by the same folks who made FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL and LOVE, ACTUALLY, this movie is wonderful, actually, because of its subtleties. In one endearing scene, Carl has been given an opportunity by Dr. “Love” Dave (Frost), albeit a slightly immoral opportunity, to finally embrace manhood and lose his cherry with one unsuspecting young lady. Under Dr. Love’s insistence of urgency, Carl assures him in a very meek, high-pitched voice, “I think we can both be pretty certain I’m going to be quick.” They hug—both stark naked at the time—and Carl is sent to his doom.
This movie is character driven and the characters are cast spectacularly. Hoffman is the man, the Count of Cool. Nick Frost is charming despite his chunky physique. Rhys Iffan is gaspingly funny. Kenneth Branagh does evil like only the British could. And how could you not love Bill Nighy, who could make a phone book reading sound interesting? Each actor plays off the other with such ease, that you easily get lost in the movie.
Like I said before, I don’t really know music, but I know a little about acting and I’ve always had a love affair with movies. Unfortunately, I know a movie has lost me when I can picture the actors reading from a script and working to hit their mark. Once that happens, it will never pull me back in. PIRATE RADIO sinks you in the story, throws you in a life boat with the characters, and sails off into the sunset.
I give PIRATE RADIO 5 “F” words over the airwaves out of 5. You’ll smile when you’re not laughing, you’ll giggle every time Kenneth Branagh says that guy’s name, and you’ll want to see it again. Oh, and the soundtrack is pretty kickass, too.