I may actually be the last person in the whole English-speaking world to see the 2009 film Pirate Radio (released in Great Britain as The Boat That Rocked), but it was worth the wait. What an outstanding, if underappreciated bit of moviemaking.
The story, set in 1966, has to do with misfit, rebel disc jockeys, who--much to the disgruntlement of Her Majesty’s government--are broadcasting contemporary pop music from a ship anchored in the North Sea to listeners tired of hearing tamer tunes every time they switch on their radios. The picture is alternately hilarious and poignant, and for my money, it’s thoroughly worth watching, if only for the performances of Bill Nighy (as the station’s dissolute boss), Nick Frost (as unlikely sex symbol “Dr. Dave”), and Chris O’Dowd (whose DJ character, “Simple Simon” Swafford, is a nice but naïve guy who loses his wife of 17 hours--portrayed by Mad Men’s January Jones--to a more famous record-spinner). Philip Seymour Hoffman is not bad, either, as the egotistical DJ, The Count, but his character isn’t as satisfyingly nuanced as some of the rest of them.
One of the real standout scenes from the filming of Pirate Radio, though, was left behind on the cutting room floor. Fortunately, it’s among the extras available on the DVD release of this picture, and can be found as well on YouTube (at least for the time being). In that four-and-a-half-minute segment, Welsh actor Rhys Ifans, who plays megastar DJ Gavin Canavagh (a Tom Petty lookalike if ever there was one), explains to the station’s newest young member (Tom Sturridge) why he left radio broadcasting for a while ... and what brought him back. It’s a scene that actually encapsulates the movie’s entire message--that rock ’n’ roll is so important, it can’t be ignored or silenced--and yet was excised to reduce the run time. A mistake, if you ask me.
I think I could watch this scene 100 times in a row, and smile the whole while. I only wish I knew who plays the “old Guatemalan guy” and Canavagh’s thoroughly entrancing girlfriend.
If you’re ever stuck for what movie to rent for an otherwise quiet Saturday night, or even for a date with somebody who’s not afraid to be seen laughing, try Pirate Radio.
READ MORE: “And I Was Crazy to Think I Could Ever Leave It All Behind,” by Chris La Tray (Stumbling the Walk).