Quirky Wes Anderson-like UK comedy
Also opening this week:
Equal parts Wes Anderson and Harold and Maude-era Hal Ashby, showcasing a real love for films and filmmaking, Richard Ayoade´s Submarine is a pure delight: quirky, poignant, and frequently very funny.
Set in Swansea, Wales during the mid 1980s (the time is never directly referred to, but the characters go out to see Crocodile Dundee) Submarine is narrated by Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a precocious teenager who carefully monitors the sex life of his parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) while attempting to initiate his own.
Oliver is a an outsider, spending his school days dreaming about how his classmates would react to his death (and Christ-like return) or handing in precious notes to his teacher (“Please excuse Oliver from class - his tiny heart is broken”). His bedroom contains posters for two of my favorite films, Jean-Pierre Melville´s Le Samourai and Le Cercle Rouge (the title here changed, for some reason, to “His Death Was Red”), and he still cares for his girlfriend even though she walks out of Dreyer´s The Passion of Joan of Arc. We´ve all been there, right? Right?
But Oliver isn´t a nerd without social skills, he´s a real rogue who carefully chooses his conquest, Jordana (Yasmin Paige) and straightforwardly maps out the reasons she should have sex with him. His romance is carefully balanced with a home life in which he supports his melancholic father, spies on his mother, who may be philandering with old friend and current VHS psychic (Paddy Considine), and schemes to keep the family together.
The cast is a lot of fun. Young stars Roberts and Paige are perfectly suited to the material (Roberts, as others have noted, is a dead ringer for Bud Cort in Harold and Maude), Taylor is wonderfully sullen, Hawkins couldn´t be more different than her attention-grabbing role in Happy-Go-Lucky. And Considine, who I´ve always liked in (typically) more serious roles, is a real blast as the half-pathetic, all-nonsense psychic.
You may know director Ayoade from the UK TV Series The IT Crowd (as Moss, the geeky co-worker, he´s the best thing in it), or as the hilariously deadpan Dean Lerner in Garth Merenghi´s Darkplace and other works. In Submarine, his feature film debut, he displays an incredible control over craft and style - this is clearly a director to watch.
Music is a real highlight, with an original score by Andrew Hewitt and Cat Stevens-like songs by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner.
Submarine, with its overt influences from Anderson, Ashby, and the French New Wave, is right up my alley. It may not be up yours. My only gripe is an unfortunate Hollywood-esque turn at the finale, but unlike, say, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a similar-minded film that I expected to really enjoy but just couldn´t forgive, Submarine is too much fun.
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