The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Pirate Radio

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Chick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-grey-sm Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Pirate Radio

This odd but true tale of rogue rock radio beamed into the UK from an offshore ship during the sixties is a fun compilation of hits, to be sure, wrapped around a motley crew of personalities that reflect the era in broad strokes.

When Carl (Tom Sturridge) joins his godfather and station manager Quentin (Bill Nighy) for a summer aboard the ship, he’s introduced to a colorful array of characters that run the rebel enterprise.

Aside from Quentin, there’s The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a grizzled American, British rock DJ legend Gavin (Rhys Ifans), and dense production assistant Thick Kevin (Tom Brooke) among others. The ship’s sole woman is the cook, Felicity (Katherine Parkinson) who’s also a lesbian, so it’s okay. What I mean is, everyone in the film nods understandingly when this salient point is revealed.

Other radio personality “types” include a Jim Morrison lookalike as well as a poncho-wearing, frizzy-haired elder hippie named Bob (Ralph Brown) who has an early morning show that has managed to keep him secluded from the rest of the crew for a year. They meet accidentally one morning at breakfast

The station’s wildly popular with a large cross section of the population. Song snippets are played across scenes of slumber parties, dances, coffee breaks and secret transistor radio operations underneath the pillows of youth feigning sleep.

Of course there’s bound to be a legal STD in this love fest and here it comes in the form of one Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) a Member of Parliament under whose purview the rock station falls. He spends the entire length of the film, with the aid of a like-minded assistant, the unfortunately or perhaps appropriately named Twatt (Jack Davenport) trying to take down the flauntingly cool scofflaws. He’ll create laws to do it as well as threaten everyone around him with dire professional consequences.

Meanwhile there’s drama aboard the ship, homegrown and imported. Romance troubles (Carl isn’t getting any, either is Felicity) talent rivalries, a mercenary love triangle and increasingly stringent laws threaten the existence of Rock Radio.

Carl’s mother Charlotte (Emma Thompson) visits her son on the ship, and we gather she’s had many lovers, enough to cause Carl to speculate that his father is one of the crew members/radio personalities. To top it all off, Dormandy’s latest mandate to close the floating station down results in the entire crew’s life being jeopardized at sea.

Director Richard Curtis (Love, Actually) nearly pinballs the large ensemble cast around the ship in a type of fast-paced cabin fever, accomplishing the admirable job of distinguishing his characters amid a constant chaos.

(Bill Nighy) is regal and elegant in his rock righteousness. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a hard partying version of himself. Kenneth Branagh seems so comfortable in his Scrooge-like fervor that it may seem that Henry V is gone forever in favor of the uptight, humorless bureaucrat. Or maybe that’s simply a continuation. Tom Sturridge is the Anyboy, coming of age on a ship where drugs and rock ‘n roll are already part of the scene.

Women characters are good for one thing here; well, maybe two (remember that the only female shipmate is a cook and lesbian). Since she’s out of commission the “birds” must be shipped in from the mainland for recreational purposes. Women are merely shagsters, arm ornaments, and a means to get young Carl deflowered as if you didn’t see that coming (no pun intended).

There are flaws. The plot is a thin soup of a narrative, there to simply string classic rock and pop songs together with lots of dance montages to show how groovy and fab the music is. Bob’s look and some of the songs are anachronistic to the period (1966). Still, Pirate Radio is meant to be fun, and it is despite an unnecessarily wet and melodramatic ending.

You’ll discover that rock music, heavy though it might be, not only endures but prevails. It floats, too.

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