Review: Pirate Radio
Director: Richard Curtis
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Sturridge
Richard Curtis’ attempt of creating an off-colour radio station at sea is flooded with comedic moments, amidst competing storylines that never fully establish themselves- but the film reminds us of the music that mattered.
Loosely based on Radio Caroline, Pirate Radio (released earlier this year in the UK under the title The Boat That Rock), set in the 1960s, follows the rock ‘n’ roll influenced lives of radio DJs and their crew broadcasting from a ship in the North Sea.
Carl (Tom Sturridge) arrives on the radio ship, Radio Rock, when his mother (Emma Thompson) sends him away to spend time with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy) after getting expelled from school.
From the moment Carl sets foot on the ship though, he’s bombarded with all of the vices any good mother would want under lock and key – drugs, alcohol and overall promiscuous behaviour.
But it’s that attitude that has the radio station flourishing.
The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) leads the ragtag group of disc jockeys with his enigmatic, American rock lovin’ style that listeners across England have come to love. However, the perceived vulgarity and loose morals of the radio station has the English government up in arms and dead set to shut it down. And the story sets sail as the government attempts to stamp out the popular station.
Nighy is ever smooth and silky as the often drunk Captain of the ship. His British wit and effortless delivery helps spark dialogue between other characters and acts as the glue that holds together the multiple storylines.
And that is the film’s main shortcoming – you’re never quite sure what to focus on.
At one point we’re trying to figure out if Carl’s father is on the ship. And at the next turn we’re waiting for the feud between The Count and the resurrected god of radio, Gavin (Rhys Ifans), to build to an epic climax.
The result is scattered scenes with Hoffman – who is his prototypical self, engaging and wholly entertaining – and a plot that meanders more than a dingy at sea during a storm.
Thankfully, while the myriad of storylines distract from what could have been a cult-favourite-in-the-making, the side characters (particularly Angus and Dave, played by Rhys Darby and Nick Frost) are imaginatively humorous and provide enough laughter to not fully notice the leaks sinking the film.
But, with a soundtrack boasting the likes of The Kinks, Otis Redding, The Beach Boys and The Who, it’s hard not to toe tap and knee slap from start to finish.
— Travis Persaud