Thursday, April 29, 2010

Movie Log: Pirate Radio

The Wife and I are inordinately fond of Richard Curtis movies -- mostly because of his last film, the absolutely wonderful Love, Actually -- so we made sure to get Pirate Radio on the day of release. (From Netflix, of course -- I collect and accumulate enough different categories of stuff without adding movies into the mix.)

It's a romanticized, fictionalized version of the story of the pirate radio stations of the '60s, which broadcast from boats anchored in the North Sea to subvert the BBC's stodgy habit of never actually programming things that people wanted. (In this case, rock 'n' roll.) Pirate Radio -- which may be better known in some regions under its original British title, The Boat That Rocked -- is one of those loose-limbed assemblages of scenes that more or less add up to a plot, but don't entirely track from one event to the next.

Look: it's the mid '60s, right? And, according to this movie, everybody listens to and loves the pirate radio stations, except for a few of the obligatory anti-fun government types -- led by Kenneth Branagh as a minster in charge of, for all we can see, repressing rock and all things pleasant. One young man, after being thrown out of his college, is installed there for nebulous reasons under the tutelage of the station manager, Bill Nighy's Quentin. He meets the various DJs -- all odd, larger-than-life characters in their own ways, played by Nick Frost and Rhys Ifans and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris O'Dowd and others, and then Pirate Radio has nearly two more hours of scenes in which those characters play music, have fun, and goof around on the boat.

(The stuck-together-on-a-ship-with-a-bunch-of-men issues are dealt with in unlikely but pleasant ways, such as the boatload of attractive and willing women that arrive every Tuesday -- or was it Wednesday? -- and the boat is capacious enough for any number of adventures.)

At the moments when the viewer begins to doubt that Pirate Radio has a plot at all, Branagh pops back up to cast more aspersions on rock music with the aid of his underling, the oh-so-subtly named Dominic Twatt (Jack Davenport). Most of those plans come to nothing of course, until the climax of the movie.

Pirate Radio is a tremendously entertaining movie that at times comes perilously close to Gene Siskel's great Alternative to This Movie (a documentary of the actors just talking). The US disc also comes with almost a full hour of outtakes, all of which are equally as fun and funny -- but, clearly, someone was smart enough to realize that this movie couldn't be three hours long. There's really not that much to this as a film, and anyone who doesn't like '60s rock (or, at the very least, any rock music from then or later) will probably be annoyed and bored -- but it entertains in just the way it promises to, and has a pile of very watchable performances from some very funny men.
Listening to: Josh Ritter - Rattling Locks
via FoxyTunes

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