Quint reports in on a Rushmore-ish dark comedy/coming of age flick out of the UK called SUBMARINE! Sundance 2011!
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with one of the highlights of the 2011 Sundance film festival so far.
I think it was my very young viewing of Stand By Me that cemented my love of coming of age movies. It’s a genre that is often attempted, but it’s rare that it is nailed. I’d say Submarine nails it.
On the surface it’s a bleak, quirky dark comedy about a weird kid who is maybe a little too smart for his own good that has to juggle his first romance and the growing distance between his parents.
The bit of description above may paint a certain picture in your mind’s eye, but there’s much more richness to the movie than a brief plot synopsis can convey. Much like Rushmore isn’t just about a kid who has a crush on his teacher the level of detail in the characters, the comedy and the world is what really makes this flick work.
Young Craig Roberts plays the lonely weird brainy Oliver Tate, a Harold (of & Maude) like teenager who targets an odd girl in his class to be his first love. Unlike most romantic comedies (dark or not) the odd girl isn’t the super model in glasses nerd or the unique poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks. She’s kind of a cunt to be honest, a bully who is so cruel and emotionless that the word “cunt” might be too nice.
Of course you see a softening of this character, Jordana (Gemma Chan), but it’s not as radical as you’d come to expect in the more surface-level homogenized studio teenage comedies.
Yes, there’s quite a bit of “indie quirk” here, but it doesn’t feel forced. Indie quirk is a lot like sentimentality… when wielded like a hammer it misses the target, but when handled with scalpel-like precision it can be absolutely effective.
Roberts carries this film with a quiet enthusiasm that is quite infectious. You’re with this kid from the beginning and rooting for him all the way. You groan for him when he fucks up, you feel like cheering for him when he succeeds. In other words it’s a very involving character, which gives us an entry point to the weirdness of the world.
Let me give you an example of the weirdness. A mulleted Paddy Considine pops up as a nearby neighbor and childhood sweetheart of our lead’s mom. He has a van that is airbrushed with an image of his giant head, advertising his psychic powers. This dude, who Oliver calls a ninja because he routinely throws wild martial arts kicks and punches in his backyard (badly), starts seducing his mother and his meek dad (played by the great Noah Taylor) refuses to step in and stop it. If made in America this would have been a Danny McBride character and that’s the main threat to this marriage.
Writer/Director Richard Ayoade deftly shifts between sweetness, cruelty, comedy, tenderness, anarchy, quirkiness, drama and melancholy without the transition ever being jarring. It’s quite a focused film with a wide variety of subject matter, odd because the movie feels so contained.
The Weinstein Company has this, so I’m sure you’ll see it roll out in a biggish limited release sometime later this year. If you like flicks like Rushmore and Harold & Maude then I’m willing to bet you’ll dig this one, too.
If you want an up to the minute account of what I’m seeing and my immediate verdict on Sundance flicks as I see them be sure to follow me on Twitter!
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Jan. 23, 2011, 5:23 p.m. CST
Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is one of the best comedies of the last ten years. Looking forward to this immensely :)
Jan. 23, 2011, 5:33 p.m. CST
....is so hot right now!
Jan. 23, 2011, 6:04 p.m. CST
by Anna Valerious
Maurice is my favorite character of Richard's. :) http://tinyurl.com/d83jfc
Jan. 23, 2011, 7:15 p.m. CST
Jan. 23, 2011, 9:59 p.m. CST
I'm afraid to even try to pronounce his last name, but he's a bad motherfucker. This sounds potentially incredible.
Jan. 23, 2011, 11:19 p.m. CST
Jordana is played by Yasmin Paige not Gemma Chan, she plays Kim-Lin.
Jan. 24, 2011, 12:42 a.m. CST
I watched the last 10 minutes of Young Guns last night on tv and noticed something I'd missed. At the very end when the narrator tells of what became of each member of the gang as they parted ways and they would dissapear. I'll be damned if this was just like the end of Stand by Me 2 years previously. plus Kiefers in both. wacky stuff
Jan. 24, 2011, 3:37 a.m. CST
by wolverines claw
Jan. 24, 2011, 5:55 p.m. CST
a lot of fun - saw it at the end of last year at the London Film Festival. It is a fairly standar coming-of-age story - but as noted you do care about the characters - and it wears its 'quirkyness' with a light touch.
Jan. 25, 2011, 3:01 a.m. CST
If it weren't for his participation in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace or The Mighty Boosh (his Saboo is my favorite peripheral character), I'd love him always just for Moss on The IT Crowd. He's amazing. He's directing an episode of Community this season (and I hope to God his Cambridge Footlights buddy John Oliver is in it). Can't wait to see it or his debut film. ::screams a little::
Jan. 25, 2011, 6:20 a.m. CST
My God, why hasn't BrainDrain's mommy suffocated him in his sleep yet?
Jan. 25, 2011, 12:54 p.m. CST
so i will be watching this. And Of all the minor celebrities pushing DVDs in Virgin Megastore in London, him, Berry & Mathew Holness were easily the most entertaining but hardcore & millitant, staying in 'Darkplace' character modes till the long bitter end (those signings can go on all day). He also lit a ciggarette for me just off tottenham court road once with with an amazing 'fro another time randomly, with a warm, friendly but slightly suspicious-of- the-tiny-wierd-fella-in-front-of-him look. Maybe he remembered me from the Man-to-Man-With-Dean-Learner audience (the best episode hands down with Randolph Caer) when that was recorded and had good reason i don't know.... A slighty pointless, but true story....story equivalents or extentions of name droppings aside, i will be watching this even though missed it at theatres, because Richatd Ayoade is indeed awesome and someting of a god to me.
Jan. 25, 2011, 1:01 p.m. CST
his sense of humour & witt is, let alone his basic sense of observation J_A. She thought she'd just leave it up to other responsible discerning adults...or just pass the buck, depending on how you look at it.
Jan. 26, 2011, 9:50 a.m. CST
Gemma Chan plays a character called Kim Lin (and she is also the girl in the Bing! tv commercials). imdb rocks!
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