Less Hamlet 2 (which everyone should see) and more The Details in structure, this movie has a lot of good moments that come together, but not as you expect. The key to this film is the first few minutes. Pay attention, they tell you exactly what they’re going to do… and then they pay it off just after the fade out at the end. I really didn’t listen as I took it as more an introduction than a classic first frame set-up. Bad me after all my complaints on this with other directors. Hunky Dory does this purposefully, though I would argue not clearly enough and, as such, most people will miss the intention.
As a view of the mid-70’s and into growing up, period, the film is a fairly standard story set amid some non-standard situations. The story won’t surprise as much as endear itself to you. Along with Driver (Barney’s Version, Grosse Pointe Blank), Barnard (The White Queen) and Harries carry the story forward with many supporting players, both established and unknown, not to mention a full orchestra. But the story as a whole is more collage than a single thought. This makes the finale a tad less satisfying, and yet via the music, director Evans manages to raise your emotions in a positive way.
Do be warned that the heavy accents are a challenge. My ear is pretty good, but I missed a good percentage of the specific dialogue that drowned in the Welsh influence, though rarely the intention.
I have to say that the production of The Tempest that serves as the backbone of the film is possibly one of the more interesting versions of it never made and, sadly, we don’t even get to see it all. If you don’t know the text of the play, some of the changes and references will be missed, but the music (a wonderful collection of 70’s classics) will get the point across, even if the subtler aspects get past. Even given Taymor’s recent adaptation, I think this production could have been more compelling. It also brought to mind Were the World Mine in many ways in its open enthusiasm for life… or perhaps just because it was a high school musical format.