PIRATE RADIO (aka: THE BOAT THAT ROCKED)
(director/writer: Richard Curtis; cinematographer: Danny Cohen; editor: Emma E. Hickox; cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman (the Count), Bill Nighy (Quentin), Rhys Ifans (Gavin), Nick Frost (Dave), Kenneth Branagh (Sir Alistair Dormandy), Tom Sturridge (Carl), Rhys Darby (Angus), Talulah Riley (Marianne), January Jones (Elenore), Katherine Parkinson (Felicity), Emma Thompson (Charlotte, Carl’s mom), Jack Davenport (Twatt), Ralph Brown (Bob), Tom Brooke (Thick Kevin), Tom Wisdom (Mark), Chris O’Dowd (Simon), Ike Hamilton (Harold), Stephen Moore (Prime Minister), Ike Hamilton (John); Runtime: 135; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Tim Bevan/Eric Fellner/ Hilary Bevan Jones; Focus Features; 2009-UK|Germany| USA|France-in English)
“The nostalgia Sixties rock music is lovely, however … .”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The nostalgia Sixties rock music is lovely, however the sentimental rock homage story about rogue DJs, on a battered oil tanker named Radio Rock in the North Sea, just out of reach from British jurisdiction, playing in 1966 outlawed rock music in England 24/7, is far from lovely even though it’s spirited and on the right side of the argument of artistic freedom. The outlawed Radio Rock music is overseen by the middle-aged twitty hipster, upper-class station owner (and ship’s captain) Quentin (Bill Nighy). The daring rogue rockers, advocating sex, drugs and rock, are led by the intrepid merry prankster American known only as The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman). His aim in life is to drop the F-bomb on live radio. When the clean-cut eighteen year old Carl (Tom Sturridge) gets the boot from a posh private school for smoking pot, his beautiful libertine mom (Emma Thompson) arranges with her old friend Quentin, the teen’s godfather, to take him aboard and make a man out of him.
The busy plotless story (almost totally character driven) has Carl bonding with all his eccentric shipmates like Gavin, the greatest DJ in Britain (Rhys Ifans); the silent ladies’ man Midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom); the charming portly ladies man Doctor Dave (Nick Frost); the idiosyncratic New Zealander Angus (Rhys Darby); the rarely seen morning DJ named Bob (Ralph Brown); the kindly Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke); the hardluck lovelorn melancholy Irishman Simon (Chris O’Dowd); the shy Harold (Ike Hamilton); the reporter called News John (Ike Hamilton); and the lesbian ship’s cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson).
The coming of age story for Carl revolves around his breaking his cherry with a conjugal visit from one of the lovely groupies (Talulah Riley) who visits the boat every other week and trying to locate which one of those on the boat is his long-lost father that he never knew. The rebellious rock music of the likes of The Beatles, The Stones, Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Kinks, Jimi Hendrix, Leonard Cohen, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Otis Redding, and Cat Stevens annoys the prudish BBC and the uptight snobbish reactionary government minister Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), who connives with his ambitious ass kissing assistant (Jack Davenport) to pass a law to put the pirate ship out of business.
Under the unimpressive direction of writer-director Richard Curtis (“Love Actually”) there are a number of time-filling sketches strung together for this silly but not funny story. It has the rockers as happy-go-lucky blokes who can do no wrong in advocating rock music for the world, while anyone against such freedom of expression for rock is viewed as a fascist. The deck is indeed stacked against the government oppressors, who come off looking as heartless fascists. The farce comes off less a history lesson and more an example of a bad TV comedy sitcom, with hardly a thing to say about the rockers that matters. The retro rock film seemed in its unconditional self-righteous praise of rock to do it more harm than any adversary could in labeling it as the devil’s music.
REVIEWED ON 11/17/2009 GRADE: C https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/