Writer and director Richard Ayoade (The IT Crowd The Mighty Boosh) claims copious influences for his feature debut and the film can’t help but remind us of other indie-flavored coming-of-age flicks like Rushmore and Harold and Maude but Submarine is a decidedly and endearingly unique film. In a season where most of the films we flock to see merit descriptors like “super ” “action-packed” and various forms of the word “huge ” Ayoade’s little dark comedy creeps along below the water line ready to pop up and deliver a delightful surprise for summer movie goers.
Adapted from the novel by Joe Dunthorne Submarine tells the story of Oliver (Craig Roberts) a rather strange highly-intelligent 15 year-old boy who’s determined to lose his virginity by his next birthday rescue his parents’ ailing marriage and to see it all retold in an epic New Wave-y cinematic tribute. This idea that his life will be retold on film flows throughout the film contrasting Oliver’s grandiose retelling of his life against its stark realities. Ayoade allows us to see how unreliably Oliver tells his own story but as the plot thickens we tend to get almost as lost in Oliver’s fantasies as he is.
Oliver’s virginity-ending quest leads him to his girlfriend an eczema-riddled pyromaniac named Joanna (Yasmin Paige). He’s picked her out as being most likely to acquiesce to his proposal thanks to various calculated social factors and thus their adolescent romance begins. While Oliver is exploring his relationship with Joanna – greatly consisting of her burning the hair off his legs with matches while he reimagines their romance as captured idyllically on super 8 film – Mr. and Mrs. Tate’s (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) relationship is slowly crumbling. Jill Tate’s old flame Graham a new age life coach with a useless theory about colors (Paddy Considine) moves in across the way sending Jill into a bout of reminiscence and a longing for her youth that stands to threaten her marriage. Oliver being the precocious young man he is is determined to barrel in headfirst to fix his parents’ ailing marriage which he’s been monitoring for months using the dimmer switch setting in their bedroom. (And it’s been on the sex-less setting for quite a while.)
Of course the most obvious reason this film works is Ayoade’s tight script and meticulous direction but the lynchpin is certainly the fantastic cast. Roberts and Paige though both very young fill the screen like two adults trapped in adolescent bodies. Tayor is fantastic as always but Hawkins ably treads the wafer-thin line between goofy hilarity and the complete and total sincerity of a housewife in crisis. Considine’s Graham gets a little cartoonish at times but those moments are reigned in with a little help from Hawkins.
Ayoade lends a sort of film-brat aesthetic to Submarine playing with French New Wave elements and giving nods to films like Love in the Afternoon. Of course the fact that Oliver is so inclined to remember his life in film scenes helps to unleash the techniques in Ayoade’s repertoire. In other settings this combination may have felt a little jumbled but the story almost begs for it here. Bolstering Ayoade’s plethora of techniques is the style he chose for the film. It’s a bit retro but not overly so. Ayoade situates Oliver’s gloomy seaside town in a timeless space that feels simultaneously old fashioned and completely fresh.
Finally tying all the elements together with a big bow is the soundtrack comprised of original songs by Alex Turner of The Arctic Monkeys. While he had some of the tunes composed before Ayoade brought him in to work on the film the tracks perfectly complement Submarine’s style providing the cinematic drama that Oliver would approve of without undermining the understated reality that he’s so determined not to see.
It certainly doesn’t feel like Submarine is Ayoade’s debut. He’s done his fair share of writing and directing getting behind the scenes on a few British television shows and directing music videos for The Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs but this film feels like it comes from someone who’s been in the feature film business for years. It’s seemingly without glaring rookie mistakes or hiccups. And while the retro indie dark comedy vein often lends itself to overdrawn quirk Submarine doesn’t.
Film-brat elements aside at its heart Submarine is a fiercely genuine slightly complicated and completely lovable film.
Talk show guru Oprah Winfrey has decided to cut back on her book club recommendations, which have been known to send a book straight to the Top 10 best-sellers list, because she is finding it more difficult to find books she can rave about. "It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share," Winfrey said in a statement on her show Friday. "I will continue featuring books on The Oprah Winfrey Show when I feel they merit my heartfelt recommendation."
Winfrey has also decided to cut back on traveling because she says she doesn't feel safe, recently postponing a trip to South Africa to promote the launch of her magazine, O. "My instinct says things aren't right in parts of the world. All parts--and to get from my part to your part, I'd have to travel over other parts," Winfrey told a South Africa newspaper Sunday Times.
Is it him or isn't it? Two-time Grammy winner R. Kelly is having to answer questions about allegations that he appeared in a sexually explicit videotape with a minor that is being sold illegally across the country and on the Internet. The R&B artist denies all claims but Chicago police are investigating. Meanwhile, some radio stations in the Chicago area are boycotting the singer's music.
Tony-winning actress Jane Alexander and her husband, director/producer Edwin Sherin, are taking up teaching positions at Florida State University in the fall as part of its Eppes Professor program, which invites high-profile professionals to join the academia.
John Ashcroft may be the U.S. attorney general, but his first love is music. To prove it, he is scheduled to make an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, during which he may sing a few songs for the audience. Letterman has been poking fun at the attorney general recently, showing clips of Ashcroft singing his own song, "Let the Eagles Soar," at a theological seminar in North Carolina. The Late Show segment is being taped Tuesday, AP reports.
Following on the heels of the successful Carol Burnett Show reunion special which aired last year, TV nostalgia will reign again when CBS airs a Mary Tyler Moore Show retrospective May 13 during the all-important "sweeps" month. The special will star members of the old cast, including Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin MacLeod and Betty White.
Actor/singer Harry Belafonte will receive the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's lifetime achievement award. Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter, told AP, "Mr. Belafonte has been a great role model, possessing not only professional gifts and talents, but he also reflects the gift of social sacrifice and political consciousness that has helped African Americans in their struggle."
Roy Huggins, writer/producer of TV classics such as Maverick and The Fugitive, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif., of natural causes. He was 87. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Adele Mara, and their three sons, Thomas, John and James.