I hardly ever see a movie in its opening weekend but I needed something light to balance the horrifying depression that comes from watching The Hurt Locker. That it’s a good movie is irrelevant to watching so many lives destroyed on-screen.
No lives are harmed in the making of Pirate Radio. It’s a frothy trifle reminding those old enough that a moment existed when pop music and pop radio were the most important things in teenage lives. That the music was so insanely great and catchy and upbeat that it triggered and spread happiness like an audio virus was a gift that’s never been repeated.
Somewhere underneath the musical soundtrack is a movie. Richard Curtis tried to replicate Love, Actually, the greatest of all modern romantic comedies, with lots of love but no relationships. That knocks all the dramatic stuffings out of the plot until nothing is left but a series of bits featuring a cast of about a million, all of whom are wonderful in underwritten roles. Kenneth Branagh shines plays the stuffy British minister devoted to shutting down the pirate radio stations and clearly had as much fun as the rest of cast put together chewing the scenery with evil inflections. Bill Nighy plays a sober version of his rock n roll charmer from Love, Actually. Bunches of UK actor types Americans have seen here and there show why they are much better known in the home country. Nearly unrecognizable January Jones and Emma Thompson have cameo roles. Women are almost invisible in this boy’s club, but their casual cruelty is knowing while the boys are cruel simply because they can’t think past their skins.
The movie is delightful (even when the comedy bits don’t work) all the up until the dreadful ending (see spoiler). And of course the soundtrack is addictive. Has been addictive for 40 years and will continue to be so. I’m sorry all you young’uns got the short end of the musical stick and can never know what top 40 radio could be like. If you were there, you have to see this movie. I’m sure few will get to it in the 30 seconds it’ll play in theaters but it’ll be better on a DVD with lots of extras and you’ll see the 30 minutes that were cut from the British version.
The ship that is broadcasting the pirate station sinks. The evil minister refuses to send official help. But every private ship in Britain, filled with panting fans, manages to show up in the middle of the North Sea on a perfect sunny day simultaneously - rowboats get there at the same time as power boats - to save the djs. Apparently they let every member of the crew drown since not one of them is shown emerging or getting saved. WTF?