Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Pirate Radio”

(Focus Features. 2 hours, 14 minutes. Rated R for language, and some sexual content including brief nudity. Directed by Richard Curtis.) Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Count), Bill Nighy (Quentin), Rhys Ifans (Gavin), Nick Frost (Dave), Kenneth Branagh (Sir Alistair Dormandy), January Jones (Eleonore), Jack Davenport (Twatt), Chris O’Dowd (Simon), Thomas Sturridge (Carl), Emma Thompson (Charlotte), Talulah Riley (Marianne), Gemma Atherton (Desiree), Katherine Parkinson (Felicity), many more.

Less a movie than a filmed party which swings with 1960s pop. Purports to be about the heyday of Radio Caroline (called “Radio Rock” here), one of a number of ships moored off the coast of England broadcasting rock ‘n’ roll in the days when the BBC wouldn’t allow it. The so-called plot (totally fictional) concerns an “innocent” young man, Carl, who’s sent to stay with his godfather Quentin, the ship’s captain; Carl is there to be “corrupted” by disc jockeys. (You know, we are all evil!)

The freewheeling DJs Carl meets on board include the ringleader, an American named The Count (Hoffman), a bunch of British guys, plus one woman, the lesbian cook Felicity. (The other young female characters are even less important in this bloated cast; they’re on hand for the men to ogle/ try to seduce.) We’re supposed to get caught up in the controversy when a government minister (Branagh) and his sidekick (Davenport) try to shut down the illegal broadcasts. But you won’t care about any of the half-baked subplots. Just go with the mood and enjoy the great ’60s top-40 hits from mostly-British-Invasion bands, heavy on The Who and The Kinks (Ray Davies’ undercurrent of cynicism sounds the freshest 40+ years later), plus The Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Dusty Springfield, etc. You get a few Yank acts like The Turtles, Otis Redding, and The Beach Boys, plus a few favorite one-hit wonders like The Easybeats (“Friday On My Mind”) and The McCoys (“Hang on Sloopy”). A feel-good musical romp.

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