THE BOAT THAT ROCKED - PIRATE RADIO

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The Boat That Rocked Cover The sixties was a fun time, right? Everybody just shagged each others brains out, and then smoked a lot of pot. Oh! Do you know who else does this? Director: Richard Curtis; and Actors: Bill Nighy, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kenneth Branagh, Rhys Ifans, Nick Frost, and Christ O'Dowd. But they did it mainly in 2008, and only for 116 minutes.


The Boat That Rocked - Pirate Radio


THE STORY:
Life is just grand when you're apart of a sixties English pirate radio station anchored at sea. Especially if the radio station in question is none other than 'Radio Rock'!

Yes - that's right - I said 'Rock' - a floating musical madhouse comprising of:

  • Quentin (Bill Nighy) - the cool station manager.
  • The Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman) - the head American DJ. 
  • Doctor Dave (Nick Frost) - a randy overweight musical love-machine. 
  • DJ 'Simple' Simon Stafford (Chris O'Dowd) - a person who is simple by name and by nature. 
  • DJ, Bob 'Smooth' Silver (Ralph Brown) - a man that no one really knows. 
  • Plus, there's seventeen year-old Carl (Tom Sturridge) - who has been expelled from school and sent to stay with his godfather, Quentin, for the time being.  Oh! And a couple of other rogues whom I care not to mention at the moment either.

However, I am afraid to say that governmental minister, Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), does not really like how 'Radio Rock' operates. So he instructs his subordinate, Twatt (Jack Davenport), to find a legal loophole that will allow him put an end their endeavors.

Now this begins with an earnest attempt to cut off the stations local advertising revenue - which does not work - because Quentin counteracts this scheme by bringing back massively popular DJ, Gavin Kavanagh (Rhys Ifans), which prompts funding from overseas.

Though, regrettably, this rebuttal does have a number of drawbacks you know. Because now that Gavin is back on board again, things on 'Radio Rock' start to become a bit queasy for one and all. For example: (1) Numerous sexual shenanigans are carried out amongst the crew. (2) A brief marriage is instigated between DJ "Simple" Simon and some tart Gavin once shagged. (3) A rivalry between Gavin and the Count starts to brew. And (4) The strange news that Quentin may be Carl's real Dad comes to light.

Nutty stuff, huh? But not as nutty as when Carl's mother, Charlotte (Emma Thompson), comes to visits over the Christmas period, and tells Carl who his farther really is! Moreover, that is not as nutty as when Dormandy and Twatt finally manage to pull the plug on 'Radio Rock' at midnight, 1 January 1967!!!!!

Still, I suppose that is why what next transpires is both inspiring and poignant at the same time. As records are played - waves are slayed - DJ's are waylaid - politicians are dismayed - and the high seas are finally ready for free trade.

A beginning.




THE REVIEW:
Please Note, 'The Boat That Rocked' is is a true tale of times past, dramatized and subverted by writer / director, Richard Curtis, for comedic and satirical effect. Conceptually, it is a simple tale really – a rag tag team of underdogs want to play music – the government doesn't want them to play music – a plan is concocted, carried out, and deployed – only for the underdogs to stick two fingers up to the establishment, because such is the British way.

Well, it was in the sixties anyhow.

Personally speaking, the main reason why I like this film, is because that the actors in it are just great to watch - with each of them managing to stamp out their parts with personality and charisma. Bill is the conniving manager. Chris is the downtrodden fool. Philip is the American hound dog. Rhys is the English punk. Nick is the randy fat bloke. Plus so on, and so on. Also, in addition to this, I did enjoy how the screens were so artistically framed during the montage sequences, and I liked the accompanying music as well - it was a joy to hear.


The Boat That Rocked Poster


However, I am afraid to say that 'The Boat That Rocked' does take a nose dive where the overall story is concerned. You see, the jarring narrative does zips about all over the place at times, which makes the through line appear somewhat hollow in retrospect.

I put this down to Mr Curtis’s sketch-like narrative. Because individually, each section works just fine on it own. But as a whole film, it does lack a certain punch as a 'grander' story goes.

Now this was not the case which Mr. Curtis’s other ensemble film - 'Love Actually' - because the through line related to individual pursuits. Though maybe where this particular movie is concerned, it is because I wasn't really sure what the main focus of this film was? Was it about Carl’s tale of finding his father? Was it about the idea of a pirate radio, and the British sublimation of this industry? Or was it just about 'the gang'?

The answer most probably is somewhere in between, huh?


The Cast Of Pirate Radio


I wonder why Mr Curtis did not base this film on the true story behind 'pirate radio stations'? If he did, I am sure that this could have been a classic film, instead of a nice comedy film. Just Look at the facts: (1) This film was based on the popular exploits of 'Radio Caroline', which was founded in 1964 by Ronan O'Rahilly to subvert the BBC's monopoly of the airwaves. (2) At one time or another, DJ's such as Dave Lee Travis, Kenny Everett, Tony Blackburn, and Roger Gale, worked on this ship. (3) In the sixties, only two hours of popular music was allowed to be broadcast a day - except for 'Radio Caroline'. (4) This endeavor was aided by the Dutch. (5) 'Radio Caroline' still broadcasts today, as seen in www.radiocaroline.co.uk. And (6) Watch this...





All in all this is a nice film, with great actors, a meandering story, and some poignant history.

Still, better luck next time Mr Curtis.

THE RATING: B-