Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Watch: New Hilarious Red-Band Trailer For 'The Interview' Starring Seth Rogen And James Franco Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Fantastic Fest Review: Hitman Thriller 'John Wick' Starring Keanu Reeves, Willem Dafoe & Adrianne Palicki Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big  Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz Watch: First Trailer For Tim Burton's 'Big Eyes' Starring Amy Adams And Christoph Waltz 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date 'Deadpool’ Spin-Off With Ryan Reynolds Is Finally Green Lit, Set For A Winter 2016 Release Date First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' First Look: Cobie Smulders & Guy Pearce In Andrew Bujalski's 'Results' 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders 10 Films We Haven’t Yet Seen That May Be Serious Oscar Contenders Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Watch: Oscar Isaac And Jessica Chastain Are At War In First Trailer For 'A Most Violent Year' Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Review: 'The Maze Runner' Starring Dylan O'Brien, Kaya Scodelario, Patricia Clarkson, Will Poulter And More Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” Exclusive: Matthew McConaughey Won’t Be Back For ‘Magic Mike XXL,’ Director Says Sequel Will Be “Very Different” David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' David Fincher Says He Shouldn't Have Directed 'The Game,' Dislikes Superhero Movies & Talks "Crazy" '20,000 Leagues' Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series Matt Damon & Paul Greengrass Are Returning To The 'Bourne' Series First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' First Look: Angelina Jolie And Brad Pitt In 'By The Sea' The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival The Best, Worst And Most Disappointing Films Of The 2014 Toronto International Film Festival Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ Recap: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 5, Episode 2 ‘The Good Listener’ The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... The Best Films Of 2014 So Far... From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki From Worst To Best: Ranking The Films Of Hayao Miyazaki The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes The 10 Best & Worst Movie Sex Scenes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

SXSW '12 Review: At Its Best, Harmless 'Hunky Dory' Is Just That

The Playlist By William Goss | The Playlist March 11, 2012 at 3:43PM

It’s the summer of 1976, and between a conservative school administration and an unrelenting drought, things are beyond dry for Wales’ scrappier teens. It’s little wonder that they flock to the more permissive Miss Mae (Minnie Driver) and her glam-rock interpretation of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" for the school play. Alas, "Hunky Dory" primarily concerns itself with familiar extracurricular woes and offers up much ado about nothing instead of a more rollicking or romantic coming-of-age story.
0
Hunky Dory

It’s the summer of 1976, and between a conservative school administration and an unrelenting drought, things are beyond dry for Wales’ scrappier teens. It’s little wonder that they flock to the more permissive Miss Mae (Minnie Driver) and her glam-rock interpretation of Shakespeare’s "The Tempest" for the school play. Alas, "Hunky Dory" primarily concerns itself with familiar extracurricular woes and offers up much ado about nothing instead of a more rollicking or romantic coming-of-age story.

Hunky Dory

Each protagonist has their healthy amount of burdens. Mae has to contend with a “small delegation” of disgruntled faculty; to hear it from one, “self-expression doesn’t butter any parsnips” (She is just as puzzled by the remark as we are.) There’s nice guy Davy (Aneurin Barnard) harboring a crush on the play’s co-lead, Stella (Danielle Branch); bullied Kenny (Darren Evans) giving into the peer pressures of his skinhead brethren; and closet case Evan (Tomos Harries) contending with his burgeoning sexuality. It’s all very "This is England" meets "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," lurching from rift to rift without a terrible amount of narrative momentum or directorial personality.

Hunky Dory

The anonymity of the filmmaking is something of a constant for helmer Marc Evans ("Snow Cake"). Every scene is shot with enough glow and grain that one might mistake the setting for "Tinker Tailor Soldier High," and the closest thing to uplift comes courtesy of the rehearsals of the play’s musical portions. Ranging from David Bowie to Electric Light Orchestra, these covers most appropriately evoke the era and capitalize best on the inherent talent and default earnestness of the young stars’ performances. The in-between, though, is devoted to waiting for familiar shoes to drop among the lovelorn teens and discouraged adults, with Laurence Coriat’s screenplay only surprising when it decides to omit certain clichés rather than embracing them (ex. the way that a drunken single father doesn’t lash out at his missing sons upon their return).

Hunky Dory

As emblematic of the film’s general indifference as anything is Driver’s central, perfectly fine performance. Her character is only construed as especially flighty or liberal when pitted against stuffy stereotypes in the teacher’s lounge, and when she bonds with the kids over the odd cigarette or expletive, it doesn’t seem entirely far-fetched. Her perpetual compassion and frustration certainly rings true, but there’s no real fire to her pursuit of this particular production or helping her students with their doubts and hurdles; then again, if her turn had been any more zealous, this whole rigmarole might only seem all the more routine. At this point, to call the film another “Britcom” from the producer of "Billy Elliot" would be a generous assessment of its overall personality, pedestrian though many of those efforts are.

What "Hunky Dory" could have used is its own Miss Mae behind the camera to shake things up a bit, rendering a “summer that changed everything” formula into something more empathically wistful, funny or bold. Instead, the end result is what Prospero himself might call “this insubstantial pageant,” too gentle to have any impact, as uncertain of what it will ultimately be as its young subjects are of themselves. [C]

This article is related to: Hunky Dory, Minnie Driver, Review, South By Southwest Film Conference and Festival (SXSW), SXSW Film Festival


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates