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Pirate Radio [Celluloid Hero]


Pirate Radio 2009


Sex and drugs and rock n roll. That is what ruled the North Sea off the coast of the United Kingdom in the mid-to-late 1960s. Writer/director Richard Curtis combines a number of true life events and people and mashes them into one big fantastic story.

Assembling a cast with such talent as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, and Rhys Ifans sets up a number of great scenes. The only drawback of such a large ensemble cast is that there are so many supporting characters that very few get to fully develop.

There is also not really a “plot” so much as a bunch of vignettes. There is an attempt to chose a central character, Carl, played by Tom Sturridge. The rest of the supporting characters all take time to interact with Carl, from hazing him as the new guy on the boat, to helping him lose his virginity, to finding out who his father is. Most of the other bits, though, are just randomly spaced throughout the movie. It turns into a collection of running gags as opposed to a focused story.

There are a lot of laughs and memorable characters, but many times the movie felt compressed. It was trying to jam so many different jokes and so many different quirky characters and so many crazy situations into one storyline.

If you’re going to make a movie about radio, the music obviously needs to be exceptional. Although there were a number of anachronistic choices, all of the songs chosen felt appropriate. Even if they were released a few years after the story is supposed to take place, the songs feel natural in the situations used. There aren’t many deep cuts featured, most of them are songs in heavy rotation on classic rock stations, but that is just a testament to the enduring spirit of rock. That sounds corny, but it was fun in the old “damn the man!” style.


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On the Celluloid Hero scale, “Pirate Radio” gets at 6 out of 10.

[Each week, Varacchi explores cinema from his own perspective. From indie to foreign to mainstream, he’ll watch it all. Suggestions and recommendations are welcome, leave a comment below. CLICK HERE for the Celluloid Hero archives]

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