‘Radio’ glorifies rock in UK
PIRATE RADIO Grade: A
When Richard Curtis’ newest film “Pirate Radio” opens, the music has already begun, and one is immediately catapulted back to 1966, right in the middle of one of the most historically mind-blowing decades of rock ‘n’ roll.
In this ensemble comedy, an eclectic group of deejays of every age and size inhabit Radio Rock, a pirate radio ship docked just outside British jurisdiction in the North Sea, broadcasting rock ‘n’ roll all day and night. Based on the true story of pirate radio and the insuppressible love between people and pop music, “Pirate Radio” makes quite an impact.
Accompanying the crew of DJs is Felicity (Katherine Parkinson), an openly-gay cook, Quentin (Bill Nighy) the station owner and ship captain whose godson Carl (Tom Sturridge) has recently come aboard the ship.
In the same vein as “Almost Famous,” Carl is surrounded by sex, drugs and life-changing music, and his coming-of-age story is a main plot point throughout the film.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, the only American aboard the ship and most renowned DJ until Gavin (Rhys Ifans), a sexy, drugged-up British version of him, comes back to reclaim his title. Other DJs include Simon (Chris O’Dowd), a lovelorn man with a huge heart, Angus (Rhys Darby), a native from New Zealand whose insecurities and inability to swim make him a ridiculous character and Mark (Tom Wisdom), who rarely speaks yet is wildly adored by all the female fans.
“I wanted to get that sense of several megalomaniacs living together in one flat — like if you took Leno and Letterman and Conan and made them live and eat and do everything together,” Curtis, also the writer of “Notting Hill,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral” and “Love Actually,” said in an interview with The Eagle.
The sense of community the audience sees in the movie may have been purely acting at first, but by the end of the filming of the movie, Curtis said it had become quite real. “It was a really interesting dynamic,” he said. “Tom [Sturridge] said coming onto the boat [in real life] was similar to his role in the movie.”
Due to the musical nature of the film, there is rarely a break from the onslaught of songs, but the lineup of new and old classics makes one wish for even more. Cream, Duffy, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys and The Supremes are only a couple of the bands that made the cut for the movie.
The movie embodies the ‘60s as a whole, serving as a reminder of how music of that time period has influenced culture today.
“If there’s a motto for the movie it would be ‘God gave pop music to you,’” Curtis said.
The importance of music is also illustrated by The Count when he declares, “All over the world, young men and young women will always dream dreams and put those dreams into song.” The movie rotates between shots of those on Radio Rock to clips of people in Britain who adore the music. From young kids who slip the radio under their pillows at night to older couples sitting together over dinner and listening, each has a connection to the music and the truly unique disk jockeys. Pirate Radio reached over 25 million people during its run, which was about half the British population.
There is always trouble in paradise, however, and as the crew of Radio Rock enjoy the “best days of their lives,” the government minister Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) and his sidekick Twatt (Jack Davenport) are busy looking for a way to shut down the station. Though their attempts are often thwarted, they add another comedic element to the film.
Whether it is schoolgirls dancing on their beds to The Kinks or the group of ladies convening in the parlor and listening to The Box Tops, the theme of music bringing people together is inescapable in “Pirate Radio.” Curtis explained that this is juxtaposed against today’s culture where everyone has their headphones in and pop music has become much more private. “People make playlists for themselves now,” he said. “They don’t listen to albums with their friends. The only time people are really hearing music [in groups] is when they watch movies. Festivals are becoming more popular now [which is reminiscent of] that excitement of sharing music on a huge scale.”
This movie is for people who want a good laugh, people who love rock ‘n’ roll, people who want to fall in love with crazy characters, people who want a good cry, people who love to see stories of rebellion, people who want to reminisce and so many more. “I hope this movie makes people feel great,” Curtis said. “Pirate Radio” opens in theaters everywhere Nov. 13.
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