In Theaters: Pirate Radio
One of my favorite personal interview outtakes involves Rob Zombie casually mentioning, by way of illustrating his point that a good film crosses all boundaries, that he thinks Love Actually is a terrific movie. It's a testament to writer/director Richard Curtis's firm grasp on the romantic comedy genre (though Love was the first film he directed, he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary) that he was able to pilot it across that particular boundary; after years working in television on series like Black Adder and Mr. Bean, Curtis carved out a niche that was well-rewarded but also well-respected. With Pirate Radio (released several months ago in the UK as The Boat That Rocked) he leaves the sure footing of boy-meets-girl, modern London for a boat docked off the coast of England in 1966. The true story of the ships that sat just outside of UK waters, broadcasting the rock and roll songs the BBC refused to play on a pirated signal, seems like an unstoppable premise, and yet Curtis's film feels strangely anchored in the port: lots of activity on board but no forward motion.
More a series of songs set to images than vice versa, Pirate Radio opens with a zippy title sequence backed by the Kinks's "All Day and All of the Night." Young Carl's (Tom Sturridge) gadabout mother has offloaded him onto the pirate radio ship where his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy) is overseeing a crew of DJs. The ship plays a non-stop rotation of the Stones, Who, Hendrix, and Kinks songs that the BBC, who had a monopoly on England's radio market, would only play for two hours a week. There is the sexy one (Tom Wisdom), the fat one (Nick Frost), the dumb one (Tom Brooke), the token American (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the amoral badass (Rhys Ifans) and a bunch more who all fall within Curtis's salty-to-sweet spectrum of masculinity. The women here (mostly seen as a boatload of stamping fillies imported monthly for sex) are either disappointing sluts or eye-rolling lesbians, but hey, man -- the '60s!
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