Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Movie Log: Still Crazy


I came to Still Crazy -- a decade-old British movie about a '70s rock band reuniting after nearly twenty years apart -- mostly because the lead singer, Ray, was played by Bill Nighy, and I was hoping for something like his sneaky, hilarious performance in a similar role in the slightly later Love, Actually.

Ray is substantially less sure of himself than Billy Mack (his character in Love, Actually) was, but the swagger is very similar. And Still Crazy has a lot of strengths that I didn't anticipate, from a cast packed with exceptional (but non-"star") British actors, like Stephen Rea, Billy Connolly, and Timothy Spall, to a script that knows all of the cliches about rock & roll and so doesn't waste its time retelling them to us for the umpteenth time.

Strange Fruit was a solidly successful band in the '70s -- they clearly were rich during the fat years, though that didn't last after they broke up after a disastrous festival concert in 1982. And then a possibility of another festival in the same location sends ex-keyboardist Tony (Rea) off to gather his bandmates (Spall as drummer Beano Baggott, Nighy as Ray, Jimmy Nail as bassist Les) and their old road manager Karen (Juliet Aubrey) and roadie Hughie (Connolly) in hopes of making it big again. Think Deep Purple, Mott the Hoople, Slade -- with overtones of the Who, the Stones, and several others. The band was founded by two brothers: frontman Keith died of an overdose in mid-career (after which Ray joined the group) and Brian, the guitarist, main songwriter, and massive junkie by the time they broke up, is thought to be dead.

So the reconstituted band -- with a young hotshot, Luke (Hans Matheson), taking Brian's place on lead guitar -- set off for a shakedown tour of Dutch cities, dragging all of their baggage behind them. There are the usual problems and conflicts, but they don't feel like cliches or retreads -- these are real characters, and they have the problems that a lot of people have. They resent each other over things that happened decades ago, and have trouble believing in themselves as well.

And does it all come together in the end for the big concert? Do you have to ask how a movie about the power of rock & roll ends? Still Crazy isn't a movie that will greatly surprise you, but it is funny -- particularly in the interplay of the characters -- and true, with a lot of music that sounds like you just might remember it from the late '70s.

1 comment:

Ian Sales said...

One of my favourite films, that is.

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