Friday, 2 March 2012

Hunky Dory (2012)

Image: Entertainment One

For better or worse, the success of High School Musical and Glee has opened the door for films about students finding and expressing themselves through the power of music and, in the case of the latter, belting out renditions of popular classics. Here we have a very British take on the trend.

Hunky Dory stars Minnie Driver as Vivienne, an inspirational, sweary, drinking, smoking, no-nonsense teacher who is putting on a musical version of The Tempest during the heat-wave of 1976 in a school in Swansea. Will the kids be inspired? Will they come together as one despite their differences? Will the show go on? What do you think?

It’s all very well-intentioned and there’s a bit of sharpness to go with the more saccharine moments. Well, a little bit. But it’s tough to know who this is aimed at. The 15 certificate will put it at least temporarily out of reach for the High School Musical audience, and much of the focus is on Vivienne. Driver’s obviously having a great time and gives her best performance in a while but the film can’t decide whether it’s about her or the students. The kids have varying amounts of screen time, with Aneurin Barnard (Ironclad) getting the lion’s share as the lovelorn Davey. They have their issues to deal with but there’s never any doubt that they will be dealt with, and with minimal fuss.

While the music choices, including David Bowie, Lou Reed and Nick Drake, are great (it’s a little implausible that the entire class has such good taste, but we digress), the actual film itself is content to tread familiar ground. The characters conform to type too neatly (the decision to include a comic-relief dippy French teacher was a poor one), it does have its funny moments but not enough of them, and the cast is so full that none of the characters are explored in much depth. The young performers are all solid, director Marc Evans (My Little Eye) gives everything a nice warm glow, and Driver’s on good form, but it’s a bit disappointing.

Great music choices and Driver’s on good form but it’s very slight.



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