Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hunky Dory

Directed by Marc Evans and written by Laurence Coriat, Hunky Dory is the story of a drama teacher who decides to update William Shakespeare’s The Tempest by adding the 70s rock music her students are listening to. The film is a period film of sorts set in the mid-1970s in Wales where a woman tries to find ways to connect with her students during a hot summer. Starring Minnie Driver, Aneurin Barnard, George MacKay, Kimberly Nixon, Steve Spiers, and Robert Pugh. Hunky Dory is a charming but messy film from Marc Evans.

Set in a small Welsh town in 1976, the film revolves around an idealistic drama teacher who decides to create an updated version of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest by adding contemporary music of the times to the narrative. It’s a simple story that is set in a summer at a comprehensive school where its students are quite jaded as they’re also going through things in their home life. Laurence Coriat’s screenplay has a lot of characters as well as this teacher in Vivienne (Minnie Driver) who wants to do something different as there are fellow teachers who are aghast in what she’s doing while the headmaster (Robert Pugh) is reluctant to let her do this as he would eventually play the role of Prospero in the play. When the script focuses on the students, it becomes a mess as it is hard to follow the many who are dealing with love, growing pains, and identity crises. It also makes the story feel sluggish and unfocused at times where there isn’t enough depth from the script to let the audience be engaged by these characters.

Marc Evans’ direction is quite simple as it is shot on location in Wales to play into this mixture of middle and working class group of people just trying to live day-by-day with the young teens enjoying the summer. The compositions are lively at times as well as say a lot into the process of creating a play that is unconventional but being very faithful to the source. Yet, the script’s need to cover everything including these character force Evans to try and do so much yet never find a way to balance things or simplify it. It would have these scenes involving these kids that do drag the film as it yearns the audience to wanting to see the musical rehearsal which feel more lively and serves as this needed escape from reality. Yet, that reality would come into the film for its third act but Vivienne would find a way to stage The Tempest as her interpretation of the play is unique as well as the choice of the songs that the students sing. Overall, Evans creates a whimsical but lackluster film about a teacher trying to stage a rock n’ roll version of The Tempest.

Cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography as it largely has a very sunny look for many of the daytime interior/exterior scenes with some low-key scenes at night though it is overwhelmed with bits of sepia hues. Editor Mali Evans does nice work with the editing as it is mostly straightforward despite its sluggish pace. Production designer Jacqueline Abrams and art director Carly Reddin do fantastic work with the look of the staging of the play as well as the look of the homes of some of the characters. Costume designer Stewart Meacham does terrific work with the costumes from the bellbottom pants the boys wear to the stylish clothes the women wear in those times.

Hair/makeup designer Jo Evans does brilliant work with the look of the hairstyle the kids wear during the 70s as well as the makeup they would wear for the stage presentation. Sound editor Stephen Griffiths does superb work with the sound as it play into the rehearsal process on the stage as well as how music sounds live and other things in the locations. The film’s music by Jody Talbot is pretty good for its mixture of low-key orchestral music with bits of rock while music supervisor Liz Gallacher creates a fun soundtrack that play into the period as well as the songs that the students singing ranging from acts like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Electric Light Orchestra, the Beach Boys, Nick Drake, and other music ranging from soul to pop.

The casting by Jessica Ronane is wonderful as it does feature some notable small roles from George MacKay as a musician who is dating one of his bandmate’s sister, Kimberly Nixon as young girl who is dating her brother‘s best friend,, Adam Byard as a musician who is upset to learn his friend is dating his sister, Darren Evans as a troubled skinhead named Kenny, Kayleigh Bennett as a young woman who has a crush on a classmate who could be gay, Julia Perez as Vivienne’s French friend Sylvie, Steve Spiers as a rugby coach, and Haydn Gwynn as the social studies teacher Mrs. Valentine as they’re not really given really strong material to work with.

Danielle Branch is alright as the promiscuous Stella while Aneurin Barnard is good as Davey as two teens students who are good singers with the latter having a thing for the former. Robert Pugh is excellent as the school headmaster who is aware of what Vivienne is trying to do as he would take on a role in the play as Prospero as it reminds him of his days in World War II. Finally, there’s Minnie Driver in an amazing performance as Vivienne as an idealistic drama teacher who wants to do a Shakespeare play but also wanting to infuse with contemporary music just to give the students a chance to have some fun while wanting to see what they’re dealing with.

Hunky Dory is a decent but underwhelming film from Marc Evans. Despite a fantastic soundtrack and top-notch performances from Robert Pugh and Minnie Driver, it’s a film that wanted to be a lot of things but crammed too much to the point where it becomes severely uneven and sluggish. In the end, Hunky Dory is an okay but lackluster film from Marc Evans.

© thevoid99 2016


ruth said...

OMG I'm glad you saw this! I loved the soundtrack, and I saw this because I had a huge crush on Aneurin Barnard from watching The White Queen. Yeah I think the movie could be better, but I still enjoyed the performances, esp. Minnie Driver (who's massively underrated!!) and Barnard with his gorgeous voice. I've been listening to the soundtrack constantly now.

thevoid99 said...

@ruth-I was underwhelmed by it despite the music which I love as I sang along to those Bowie songs. The film could be a lot better as I think part of it was due to the transfer which wasn't very good on my TV.