Richard Curtis has achieved a reputation for producing feel-good romantic films over the last few years (having played a part in creating Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Love Actually to name a few) and this is no exception. Boat That Rocked takes the best elements of his previous successes (barring Hugh Grant) and sprinkles them all onto an illegal pirate radio station transmitting in the 1960’s from a boat in the North Sea.
Developed with real radio stations such as Radio Caroline in mind, the film is heavy on nostalgia and is interspersed regularly with images of people listening, swaying and generally being glued to the music being played by Radio Rock.
The story itself focuses on the expelled ‘young Carl’ (Tom Sturridge)’s arrival on Radio Rock and the relationships he form with its crew. And what a crew it is. Headed by Bill Nighy’s Quentin, the work of Radio Rock’s DJs faces elimination by the government. The government here is represented by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh who plays humbug politician Sir Alistair Dormandy. Although the cheap laughs obtained from repeated use of his assistant’s name (a Dominic Twatt (Jack Davenport)) can become a bit weary toward the end of the film, he plays the character perfectly.
As in all Richard Curtis films romance plays a role in the film, but it is not as prominent as it usually is in his works. Young Carl has to deal with a broken heart whilst the crew has to deal with the realities of being ostracised from England and the hoards of female fans that await there.
Although there are great performances from the entire star-studded cast (which includes Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Nick Frost and Rhys Ifans) the real star of the film is inevitably its soundtrack. The songs selected for the film not only reflect the period but also fit the completely.
I first watched the film in a packed tent at Glastonbury where the crowd sang along to the songs and jeered at Branagh’s character and, although impossible, I would highly recommend watching the film in such a setting as it seems to be made for such a screening.
Best performance: It’s a tie between Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Count / Bill Nighy as Quentin
Best song: Any one of near forty songs included in the soundtrack, Elenore (The Turtles) and A Whiter Shade of Pale (Procol Harlem) stand out.
Best bit: It’s a toss up between Simon singing along wordlessly to Lorraine Ellison’s Stay With Me (Baby) after his marriage of 17 hours falls apart and the dramatic end.