Pirate Radio Was Disappointing

What I was expecting was the story of the thumb-our-nose station and what it did. What we ended up seeing was a concept in search of a story.

pirate radio poster.jpgHelaine and I headed into New Haven last night to see Pirate Radio. Regardless of reviews I was compelled to see it because of my own radio background. Radio was my calling as much as my occupation.

Disappointment. You don’t have to feel obliged as I was.

Pirate Radio is loosely based on Radio Caroline, one of the seaborne broadcasters in the era before commercial radio (and with it top-40 radio) was established in Britain. Since the movie took place on a ship the photography was mainly ‘tripodless’ and often too shaky for my liking.

What I was expecting was the story of the thumb-our-nose station and what it did. What we ended up seeing was a concept in search of a story. There really was no overarching theme.

I asked my friend Ed Symkus, who reviews movies for a living, to give me his opinion.

I liked the film a lot. I doubt it will be on my Top 10 list — it’s not great. But it has a sensibility that spoke right to me, and I’m sure will to you. More than half the fun is hearing what keeps popping up next on the soundtrack. A freewheeling ensemble film with lots of intertwining stories rather a straightforward one. And it turns into an action-thriller! Really!!! I love radio.

criterion theater new haven.jpgYes to sensibility and soundtrack. Yes to ensemble, though Phillip Seymour Hoffman&#185 was underused in a role where he seemed comfortably toasted and not much more. I would have to disagree with the action-thriller characterization… and I suppose with liking the film a lot. I liked it a little.

Let’s go back to the soundtrack for a second. The movie is loaded with songs you seldom hear played loud anymore. Though it was the era of the Beatles and psychedelia, much of the music was marvelously pedestrian pop. God, I love that stuff.

If there’s any good news here it’s that the story of Radio Caroline and the real pirates of the North Sea has yet to be told. That would be worth seeing.

&#185 – They could have saved big bucks on this movie by using my friend Woody Hoyt instead of PSH. Every time Hoffman was on screen all I saw was Woody–honest.

One thought on “Pirate Radio Was Disappointing”

  1. Geoff — Sorry you didn’t like it nearly as much as I did. I had considered putting quotes around the term “action thriller.” I was actually making fun of that part. Radio Caroline really did sink, but it was years later. I thought that was the weakest part of the film. But the radio guy in me — I did both music and talk shows on and off for years, and currently do film reviews every Friday — made me dig the rest of it.

    That said, and having nothing to do with radio, I dare you to see the upcoming Nic Cage “Bad Lieutenant” thing. It’s truly nuts. I’m going to try to convince my fellow members in the Boston Society of Film Critics to create an award for it.

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