The Kinks. The Hollies. The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones – these are some of the bands that defined an era in the history of music. In Richard Curtis’s new film The Boat that Rocked , he recreates a vision of when rock and pop rock music was the centre of attention and everything else in life came second.
After “Young” Carl is expelled from his secondary school, he is brought to a large ship in the middle of the North Sea to live with his godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy). Quentin is the boss of a Radio Rock show that brings rock n’ roll to the public of Great Britain at a time when jazz was preferred by the government. The radio station then finds itself on troubled water when the government threatens to shut them down. What could have been a dark film following the stereotypes of the 1960’s, Richard Curtis sheds his usual comedic light. With his CV stacked from head to toe with quirky and warmly pleasant films such as; Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and of course Mr. Bean’s Holiday , he can add this one to the well-accomplished list as well.
With a great ensemble cast from Bill Nighy, Nick Frost, Chris O’Dowd, to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Rhys Ifans, Curtis introduces a new star-in-the-making, none other than Tom Sturridge. Most people would be affiliated with Sturridge because of his relation to Robert Pattison as a childhood friend, but in this film he proves that his acting chops deserve more recognition than an accidental reputation that precedes him. For followers of this young actor who is still prime in his twenties, he has done some note-worthy work in films such as Being Julia, and Like Minds, however, this film is bound to throw him into the stratosphere. Instead of playing the part of a troubled youth destined to cause havoc wherever he chooses to go, “Young” Carl is displayed as vulnerable, and generously kind when he is thrown into a world that he sees fit. Sturridge mixes a strong characterization that does not need much said in order to express his inner dialogue. In a scene between Carl and Simon (O’Dowd), the tone in which Sturridge answers a question pinpointed to his childhood and his father instantly grips the viewer’s attention without them having to throw a hook. Or his infamous line, “I’m in, […] you’re the only people in the world that like me” during his adventures on the boat reflects a thoroughly thought-over characterization of a young boy who isn’t rebellious, but rather hasn’t found a place of belonging.
The rest of the cast compliments each other directly. There is no up-staging, for each of them works as a well-built team. Philip Seymour Hoffman, being the only American on set, showcases once again how strong of an actor he can be whether he is on his own or with an ensemble. Similar to his character in Almost Famous, his character The Count has an undying love for music in all its glory. However, Hoffman shows that “less is more” when it comes to professional acting. This is showcased brilliantly when his character is jealous of a returning DJ on the boat, Gavin, played by a seducing Rhys Ifans.
The film’s length is quite long, running close to 200 minutes. Nonetheless, the film is so rich in 60’s culture and the soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking that for anyone interested in this segment of time will not be bothered. The music is by far the strongest component which makes sense since music is what the film is all about. The blasting of The Hollies “All Day and All of the Night” at the beginning reflects the idea that music is continuous, just like the characters’ love for it in the film. Curtis’s talent for making an audience feel touched, laugh, and feel nostalgic all at once is the backbone to this wonderful film. The characters are likable because they feel real, and perhaps it is because they want the same things that we long for in today’s society: revival of music, companionship without competition, as well as the ability to sit back, relax, and listen to the tunes that dance in the air around us instead of pondering over the detrimental things in life.