those high school teachers so desperate to be popular they insisted everyone
call them by their first name? Viv is
not quite that bad, but she is obviously uncomfortable serving as an authority
figure. Although she has given up on her
acting career, the new drama teacher still has not quite worked the show
business out of her system. As a result,
she plans an ambitious glam-rock production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in Marc Evans’ period high
school musical, Hunky Dory (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
1970’s were not such a bad decade for music as people might recall—at least
until white leisure suits and strobe lights hit the scene. David Bowie is a prime example of the era’s
good stuff and Hunky Dory might just
be his best album. Naturally, “The Man
who Sold the World” shows up in Vivienne Mae’s production (familiar to many
thanks to Nirvana’s Unplugged cover)
and “Life on Mars?” (again, a popular choice).
It is a shame though that he did not offer “Kooks” because it would have
been perfect thematically for this Welsh tale of teen love, angst and music. On the other hand, several ELO tunes are
along for the ride, which is cool.
year is almost over, but “Viv” wants the seniors’ last big show to have special
meaning for them. Music will play a
major role. Bowie, ELO, and Beach Boys
tunes will all factor into her musical version of The Tempest. Unfortunately, her
afterschool rehearsals have major competition from the local swimming pool (“the
lido”) and general teenaged hook-ups.
One by one, cast members drop out, most notably her sensitive but
disturbed Caliban. Eventually, she is forced
to recruit the headmaster to play Prospero.
Of course, the show always goes on, even when apparent disaster strikes.
are honest-to-Betsy assured Evans and his producer were working on this concept
well before Glee came around. Fine, but comparisons will be inevitable. In truth, Hunky
stacks up rather well. To its
credit, it avoids preaching politics, except perhaps for the hammer &
sickle clearly visible in the assembly hall mural. Dude, what’s up with that?
Viv, Minnie Driver is relentlessly likable and resilient in the face of life’s
bummers. She is pretty much right on
target for a lightweight musical soap opera.
One of the film’s nice surprises is the sympathetic treatment of Bob
Pugh’s headmaster, an old military veteran who turns out to be far more kind
hearted and understanding than we initially expect. His deepening professional relationship with
Viv is one of the film’s more pleasant subplots. However, the teen drama is pretty standard
issue (the closeted Bowie fanatic, the sensitive working class kid spurned by
the school princess, the garage band struggling to stay unified, etc, etc).
(who previously helmed Patagonia, the
UK’s best foreign language submission two Oscars ago) stylishly stages the
climatic pageant. The kids’ “Life on
Mars?” is particularly cinematic. Frankly,
the Hunky Dory Orchestra consistently sounds full bodied and rather
groovy. The resulting cumulative impact
is appropriately bittersweet and nostalgic.
Modest but endearingly earnest, Hunky
Dory wears its niceness on its sleeve. Moderately recommended for children of the
1970’s out for a trip down memory lane, Hunky
Dory opens this Friday (3/22) in New York at the AMC Village VII.
Labels: Minnie Driver, Movie Musicals, Welsh Cinema