Sunday, November 15, 2009

'Pirate Radio' An Ultimate Ode to Rock & Roll

Once director and writer Richard Curtis sets the sails of Pirate Radio and turns its rocking volume to 11, he never looks back, making sure that this is the undeniable film that rocked.

Pirate Radio tells the fictitious tale of the infamous people aboard Radio Rock, a pirate radio rock and roll station floating in the North Sea, much to the chagrin of the British government.

A film that is carried as much by its terrific ensemble cast as it is by its undying love for rock and roll, renowned writer Curtis’ second directorial film is one of the most uplifting and spirited films of the year. A production that will leave fans of 1960’s rock and roll feeling as good as they hopefully came walking in.

There is almost way too much to love about Pirate Radio. But the best thing about the film is its cast. Each actor does his or her part to add to the melting pot of funny Curtis has created. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Darby, Nick Frost, Kenneth Branagh and Rhys Ifans are only a few of the talents associated to this rather international cast.

It’s hard to pick a few out of the bunch that do it best, but a special nod must be given to Hoffman, who not only turns in a funny performance, but also a genuinely good one, the kind he is expected to be able to give. As superstar disc jockey The Count, Hoffman plays up the ego as he goes head-to-head with the even more egotistical disc jockey Gavin (Ifans), the returning “king of the airwaves.”

And then you have the incomparable Kenneth Branagh back on land trying to shut them down. Best remembered for his many Shakespearean performances, Branagh plays a rigid but coldly funny minister in the British government attempting to get the pirate radio off the air in whatever way possible. He’s opposed on ship by the terrific Bill Nighy, whose character Quentin plays father and leader to the entire team of radio hosts.

But all these absolutely spirited performances and well-written characters pay reminder to the changed landscape of both rock and roll and radio. A system that is now so corrupted by corporation and money that some might yearn for the simpler days of similar broadcasts. Good luck turning on the radio these days to find a disc jockey with not only as much personality as these guys but also an undying love and knowledge of the records they’re spinning.

And a constant mainstay for the film is its toe-tapping soundtrack. Aided by the likes of The Turtles, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and The Beach Boys. The film is practically a who’s who of 1960’s rock and roll and its result will leave any music lover feeling absolutely fine.

Now yes, the film revels in it history of drugs, sex and rock and roll and maybe so in a too glamorous light. And really, the plot is saturated with impossible and magical occurrences. But I think at the honest heart of this lovable and heartfelt film, there is really nothing more than a love letter to rock and roll. With all the doom and negativity in the world so often focused on in film, an endearing story like the one of Pirate Radio is something absolutely welcomed by me.

The true value of Pirate Radio is in its incredible ability to make you smile. You’re just about guaranteed to love and grow attached to at least one character in Curtis’ deep cast of radio superstars, much like the folks of England were as the team’s broadcasts continued. There’s just so much love, happiness and relentless groovin’ happening on this boat that you won’t want it to ever end.

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