Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. Remember all those crazy nudie paparazzi shots of Sienna Miller that were showing up online earlier this year? Well, those were all part of the filming of HIPPIE HIPPIE SHAKE, a film about a famous obscenity trial in London in the ‘60s, and as far as I know, this review is the first word we’ve had on how the film looks so far:
Hey Harry, Saw a test screening of British film Hippie Hippie Shake (directed by Beeban Kidron and starring Cillian Murphy and Sienna Miller) here in London on Thursday, and thought you might be interested. The man with the tickets spent fifteen minutes giving me his marketing spiel and trying to give some background to the film before he would hand over the invitation. He had me at hello. Not that I thought the film would be any good - the title made me think of an Austin Powers musical montage, while my radar would normally be programmed to ignore any Sienna Miller vehicle. Oh, I had heard some internet chatter about full frontal nudity in the film; urban mythology of CGI-enhanced, hippie bush (fur is getting easier to do nowadays), but Miller didn't sell it to me – to be honest I just wanted to experience a test screening. The film tells the real-life story of Oz magazine – a satirical underground publication brought over to London from Sydney, Australia, by editor Richard Neville (Cillian Murphy) and artist Martin Sharp (Max Minghella), which became the subject of an infamous obscenity trial in 1971. UK television audiences may remember a 1991 dramatisation of the trial which starred Hugh Grant as Neville. Like that TV production, Hippie Hippie Shake portrays the shockingly, sinisterly alien way in which subjects like oral sex and homosexuality could discussed in a court-room even in the 1970s. But the court case is only part of the film – a convenient backdrop for the third act. The story begins with the establishment of the magazine in London in 1967. The characters are introduced in a low-key, almost minimalistic way. On arriving in London, Neville goes straight to a night-club where girlfriend Louise Ferrier (Sienna Miller) tells him "You're here" - something we had gathered from the establishing shots of him arriving at the airport and walking. The first act builds slowly, but suddenly and in a definite moment the film just seems to catch fire. The London locations, pounding sixties soundtrack and psychedelic visuals succeed in creating a unified mood of time and place. Music is a big part of the film: the story takes an enjoyable trip at one point to the 1970 Isle of Wight festival, where suitably hedonistic high-jinks ensue. Although the film will, inevitably, be marketed with the words "sex, drugs and rock and roll", it is just as much about the ups and downs in the relationship between Neville – the king of counter-culture who suspects he might just prefer a cup of tea and monogamy - and Ferrier. There are comic moments too, such as Neville taking his dad to see an especially parent-unfriendly theatre production, or staff-writer Germaine Greer agreeing to road-test a volunteer Englishman's bedroom skills for the magazine. Co-editor Felix Dennis (Chris O'Dowd of UK TV sitcom The IT Crowd) is also hilarious. And yes, there is full frontal nudity from Sienna. She has a natural, un-made-up look for most of the film, one might even say uglified in places. But when, kneeling in a garden drenched in daisies and with a beatific expression on her face, she poses for an "alternative" Oz centrefold – she is stunningly, stunningly beautiful. In contrast I found Cillian Murphy drab and unappealing (though I still highly rate 28 Days Later and Sunshine), and the central character of Neville poorly sketched in. From the moment he walks on, your attention starts to wander to other characters: like the narrator character in a film adaptation of a novel, he is central but utterly pointless. When in the climax of the film he delivers his Big Speech of personal freedom and love across the generations, it clangs horribly because it just sounds (as every script must try and avoid) exactly like a speech somebody else has written for him. In the closing moments of the film I thought for one dreadful moment it would end in a Full-Monty-style, hats-in-the-air freeze-frame, but thank God this didn't happen. There are some predictable scenes, some hammy acting, some bad jokes, but they couldn't spoil my enjoyment. I'm sorry, but I really liked it. My name is Harry Palmer.