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Film | Talkin’ ‘Bout Their Generation

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I dropped into the cinema today to see The Boat That Rocked. And, yes, it was the nostalgic sexagenarian trip down memory lane to the good ‘ole Swinging Sixties I was expecting. But, it was also a thoroughly enjoyable, vibrant and fun movie, aided a lot by a booming British pop soundtrack.

Directed by Richard Curtis (Love Actually, Notting Hill) and with an ensemble cast. The Boat That Rocked is a comedic tribute to the UK pirate radio stations of the 1960s that were pretty much the only radio stations playing pop music.

Despite the fact that British pop music was booming, it had little to no air time on authorised stations. That’s where pirate radio stations such as Radio Caroline and Wonderful Radio London came in. Completely unauthorised, but untouchable, pirate radio stations broadcast pop music to its growing audience from boats anchored in international waters of the UK coast.

Of course, because they were the ones broadcasting the music, their role in British rock is pretty important.

The movie is set on one of these boats — Radio Rock, based loosely on Radio Caroline. Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) is sent aboard by his mother to join Radio Rock’s captain and his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy). Apparently with the intention to clean him up after he was expelled from school. It’s not long before Carl fits in with the boat’s motley crew of DJs.

The disc jockeys are led by a rock-loving American known as The Count (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who oddly resembles the determined anti-whaling captain of the Sea Shepherd, Paul Watson. There are a bunch of other DJs who represent a range of personality types, including the Australian Angus , whose dream is to play the entire Seekers’ back catalogue. The DJs are joined by the sole female, Felicity, who we are constantly reminded is a lesbian.

Meanwhile, back on land, the very square government minister, Dormandy (Kenneth Brannagh), is trying to get the station shut down. Of course, Dormandy is constantly outwitted by the Radio Rock crew and it’s this two-and-fro tension that drives much of the movie. And there is some historical accuracy here — for example, the government did introduce laws to criminalise their broadcasts.

Back on the boat, the crew are having fun and games, entertaining buxon lasses and pumping out the tunes, as the virginal Carl comes of age. But, will it last forever? Will the government finally nab these anti-establishment hooligans?

Why I liked it

Without a doubt, the movie tells the story from the perspective of a bloke who lived through the era and is reflecting on it with a great deal of fondness, in the same way a middle-aged, family-ed man looks back on his days as a reckless, carefree youth. It’s an unashamedly misogynistic boys film in some ways, and how could it not be!

But all is forgiven for this was a great ride for me. It really was fun and entertaining.

Because it’s set on a boat broadcasting the “Best of British”, there is a veritable smorgasboard of tunes from the era in the soundtrack. It’s an homage — The Easybeats, The Kinks, The Turtles and The Who to name a few. The only “The” that’s missing is The Beatles. If you like the music, this movie is a must-see. My parents grew up with it and, thus, so did I.

Here’s a video of The Kinks.

Bill Nighy is superb as the dandy Quentin, and for all the young boys and girls out there, Tom Sturridge is worth a look at. The other characters, tho’ stock, are very endearing and each have their own story.

Kudos too for the vibrant, beautiful costumes and set design. The frocks worn by Carl’s love interest, Marianne (Talulah Riley), are to die for. No sooner had I walked out of the cinema than I was en route to my tailor Russell Wade, himself a remnant of the era, for a fitting.

It’s a superficial film in some ways. It’s really a tribute and celebration of what these people did. After all, the pirate radio stations, where would rock+roll be?

I’ll leave you with the trailer.

There’s still more

» The Boat That Rocked — Official site
» The Pirate Radio Hall of Fame


Written by Darren Smith

15 April 2009 at 11:06 pm

One Response

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  1. This is great. Really nice post. Very Informative and helpful post.

    sony ericsson k850 i

    28 February 2010 at 3:24 am

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