The Boat That Rocked

by / April 27, 2009

Richard Curtis is the kind of writer/director who usually divides audiences. People either fall head over heels for his brand of English middle-class pap filled to the brim with gloopy romance, or they loathe it with a passion. I’m sort of halfway in regards to the man’s work—Notting Hill pissed me off to no end, yet I found myself liking Love, Actually against my will (the awesome Alan Rickman may have had something to do with that).

Curtis’ latest excursion into the multiplexes, The Boat That Rocked, is set up to be at least a fair bit more subversive than the man’s usual output—he’s not dealing with goofy and loveable Hugh Grant and his misfortunes with pretty women who wouldn’t know how to talk romantically if they were coached in it for ten years by a resurrected Casanova, thank God, but the crew of a 1960s pirate radio crew, fighting the system and doing drugs and having sex, that sort of thing. However, initial appearances can be deceiving, and the fact that it’s not actually based on any true stories indicates that Curtis is going to file the story’s teeth down so much that it won’t have any bite whatsoever, unless you think gumming is just as effective.

Curtis’ script is fairly conventional stuff—oh look, they’ve got romance troubles; oh look, now they’re breaking the law; oh look, now Kenneth Branagh’s twirling his pantomime moustache; oh look, now they’ve got romance troubles again. However, the cast gamely run with what they’re given, and they basically make the film good. Philip Seymour Hoffman is great, if on autopilot, as a laidback American DJ, and he’s supported ably by typecast—but nevertheless enjoyable—actors such as Bill Nighy, Rhys Darby, Nick Frost and Branagh. The cast work off each other well and bring their characters to life, remarkable given how two-dimensional they are, and they infuse the film with an overwhelming sense of fun.

The film’s standouts, though, are Rhys Ifans—riotous as a womanising, hypnotising shock-jock prototype—and Chris O’Dowd (The I.T. Crowd), finally being given a well-deserved big break with the most meaty role in the film, as the hopeless romantic aboard a ship of lechs.

The Boat That Rocked is a fun, frothy film, a safe date movie or, if you’re like me, a movie to go to by yourself and laugh at while trying to ignore the guy behind you jerking off (I’m not kidding, true story).

Written and directed by Richard Curtis
With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, Rhys Darby,
Kenneth Branagh, Nick Frost, Jack Davenport and Chris O’Dowd

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  1. Andrew Bird says:

    Was the person behind you jacking off during the almost-a-rape scene? I refer of course to the scene where the character played by Nick Frost has the brilliant idea of substituting another man to have sex with a woman who is expecting to have sex with Nick Frost. Aside from the utter impossibility of the plan (the substitute is a skinny, virginal 18 year old boy), if it were to have occurred (the boy is thwarted) it would have been a rape. Which Curtis seems to find funny. Throughout this film, women were portrayed as duplicitous nymphomaniacs and Richard Curtis refrained from making any comment on the sexual mores of the era (as he perceived them).

    This point is made a little more ably n the review in Sight and Sound. Just a thought, I think you reviews are pretty good myself.

  2. Adam Goodall says:

    I’m probably going to regret replying to this, but here we go.

    To answer your first question, no, the man was not masturbating at that point of the film, something I at least would’ve understood – condoned, no, been utterly disgusted by, yes, but understood. He was jacking off during the opening credits. I was surprised.

    The thing is with Curtis’ work is that he peddles in frothy, ideology-less and consequence-free rom-coms, and as such it probably doesn’t help to go reading too much into his gender politics. Yes, the women are mostly portrayed as very sex-oriented (intentionally duplicitous only really extends to one of them), but so are the men, and I don’t think Curtis wanted to critique these sexual mores – and if he had wanted to, I believe he would’ve failed miserably. There is something unnerving about that part of the film, but it’s not necessarily portrayed as a positive thing, given it came from the brain of one of the most morally-absurd characters in the film. Besides, this attempted rape was pulled off much more disturbingly in Revenge of the Nerds, in that the nerd actually succeeded and it was portrayed as a good thing.

    Oh, and thank you.

  3. machonacho says:

    Lamo… Mistaken identity in CONSENSUAL sex is not rape although it is seedy and sad to have to pretend to be someone else in order to get laid…

  4. Jackson Wood says:

    I’m on a boat.

  5. Skins De Slick says:

    pretty bad movie imo

    snore plot

    “hurr will the boy get a root? will the cool dj usurp the yank? why doesn’t rhys darby bother changing his accent?”

    richard curtis once gave the world blackadder now he’s serving up this shit