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Rock and roll for the masses
The Boat That Rocked (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
The Boat That Rocked (DVD)
Advantages: Great actors and characters, enjoyable, great music
Disadvantages: It loses its way sometimes, a bit long
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, who also wrote Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, this is a riotous look at pirate radio in the sixties, the start of commercial radio as we know it today. There are a host of well known British actors in the starring roles and all are excellent, but the one actor that stands out for me is the token American - The Count, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is a superb actor, one that never disappoints, and he most certainly doesn't here. In many ways, he is the leader of the pack, the most committed and the most revered, and Seymour Hoffman puts his heart and soul into the role as ever. We find out very little about his background, which is a shame, but considering the number of characters in the film, that isn't suprising.
Bill Nighy also stars as Quentin, the manager of the team. He is as personable as ever, but doesn't really offer anything different to his other roles. To be fair, he doesn't really have the chance, because although he is one of the top billed, his role is fairly brief. The two actors that do really stand out are Nick Frost as 'Doctor' Dave and Chris O'Dowd as 'Simple' Simon Swafford. Both are great comic actors; it is impossible to ignore either of them because their personalities are so big. Dave somehow manages to pull all sorts of women, despite the fact that he isn't the best-looking of men, obviously because of his larger-than-life personality, and Nick Frost makes this somehow seem really convincing. Simon has a really sweet side plot when he gets married on air...only to find out that his wife is not all she seems. O'Dowd makes Simon into a really likeable character and I was always happy when he was on screen. Rhys Ifans plays a very different role from that in Notting Hill - here he is a cocky, over-confident man who progresses from dislikeable to comical during the course of the film.
Two other actors deserve a mention. First there is Tom Sturridge as Carl, a character who really comes of age during the course of the film. I'm not familiar with Sturridge as an actor, although he has had a few TV roles, but he looks great in the role and is incredibly convincing - I liked the way that the story was more or less told through his eyes. I hope to see more of him in the future - I think he has made a promising start here. Then there is Kenneth Branagh as Sir Alistair Dormandy, the man who is determined to rid the airwaves of pirate radio. It isn't a role that will have stretched Branagh very much, but he is so strait-laced and irritatingly smug that it is hard not to laugh at him. And had I not known it was Branagh in the role, I would never have recognised him - hair and make-up did a great job!
This isn't a laugh a minute film and I didn't find myself rolling on the floor with laughter. However, the humour is gentle and silly and it did make me smile an awful lot. The screenplay is good, but perhaps not as good as I know Richard Curtis can be; it is really left to the actors to behave in such a way that they create the laughs. I was impressed by Philip Seymour Hoffman who is generally known for his more serious roles - he really showed his versatility here by having great comic timing. Gentle teasing of Carl was also a cause of a lot of the humour - being a virgin who is thwarted at every possible sexual opportunity, his predicament is really quite funny at times, although the men do genuinely try to help him most of the time. There is a rating of 15 on the film, for some sex, plenty of sexual innuendo and swearing, although it really isn't too graphic.
Like most films, The Boat That Rocked does have its flaws. It is incredibly long, for a start, at 135 minutes. Watching it on DVD, that didn't bother me too much, but I think it could have definitely have been edited down a fair bit. I also felt that the film didn't really have an identity. There is so much going on and so many characters involved that it lost its way at times. The basic plot is that the government want to shut the radio station down, but at times, it was possible to forget about all that, because it really did seem to be in the background. And it was perhaps a mistake to have so many leading characters - it was hard to concentrate on any one person and their story because there were so many other stories going on at the same time. It is probably a film that will improve with watching, because the viewer will be able to pick up on different things without getting bored, but I think some people will be put off from watching a second time.
One of the big pluses of the film is the soundtrack, which is really incredible - although that shouldn't be surprising considering the evolution of the music industry at the time. I'm rarely interested in movie soundtracks, but I would actually buy this one - it includes songs such as All Day and All of the Night, by the Kinks, Dancing in the Street, Martha & the Vandellas, My Generation, The Who, A Whiter Shade of Pale, Procol Harum, Let's Spend the Night Together, The Rolling Stones and my all-time favourite song - Let's Dance, by David Bowie (you'll need to see the film to understand how an eighties song manages to slip in!). It really is a pleasure to hear and definitely helps to build up the atmosphere.
There are a couple of extras with the DVD - some footage that was eventually edited out (thank goodness, or it really would have been too long) and and audio commentary with Richard Curtis, Nick Frost and Chris O'Dowd.
I really did enjoy this film. It did lose its way at times, but it was still entertaining and, despite its length, I never once got bored. If you're British and enjoy seeing your favourite stars plastered all over the screen, then you can't really go far wrong with this. Other nationalities might not recognise all the actors, but then this is a great introduction to them and to some gentle British humour. Recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £11.99.
Running time: 135 minutes
Summary: Enjoyable film, if a little long