Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Favorite Movie So Far This Year

We now have the movie bar set for the year. It's "Pirate Radio" and it's funny, likeable, has marvelous music and plays to a crescendo of an illogical and perfectly delightful ending that leaves even the sourpuss smiling and saying to disbelievers, "Hey, shut up; it's a movie."

It's a movie the bad guy steals (Kenneth Branaugh, who plays a sinsiter government official with the task of, in effect, killing rock 'n' roll) and in which an ensemble cast is so thoroughly entertaining that it doesn't matter which of several plot lines is being followed, you'll be engaged. Bill Nighy and Philip Seymour Hoffman (with a delightful cameo from Emma Thompson) are the names in the cast (nobody else was familiar to me), but the Brits were perfectly cast as a motley crew of guys (and one lesbian allowed on what would normally be a single-sex boat). Into this happy home enter various white boot, mini skirt clad young women and all the while the music plays (with great shots of people excitedly listening).

At the baseline is a true story (though this is a thoroughly fictionalized version): the British government banned rock 'n' roll from official radio for a period in the 1960s when the country was the leading force in the music. Branaugh's character represents the government view and the overkill here is hilarious. The music, of course, is forced offshore--and outside British authority--and it is Branaugh's task to figure out how to turn it off.

The selection of tunes from 1966 is just about perfect and when, near the end, we see one of the DJs trying to save one album from disaster, it is the Joplin vinyl, "Box of Pearls" (says my pal Fred Campbell, who keeps up with things like that). Joplin sings over the closing credits, so my guess is Fred's right.

It helps some if you're a 60-something, unreconstructed rocker, but it is not required in liking this movie. It's genuinely funny for the reasons anything is funny and if you're a kid, go see it. You'll see yourself somewhere in here.

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