Hunky Dory

Hunky Dory


Reviewed by: Donald Munro

Hunky Dory is set in Swansea during the long hot summer of 1976. It is the story of a teacher, Vivienne (Minnie Driver) trying to put on an end of year show, a rock opera version of The Tempest. In the wake of her father's death she has left an apparently unsuccessful acting career to return to her home town, to her old school to work as a drama teacher.

There is a lot of material that the film could explore, however it is all pushed into a corner by the story of the opera. How can she possibly make it work when some children don't turn up for rehearsal, when some teachers think the whole project is stupid and some don't like her? It's the last chance to make a difference to some of these kids' expectations. OK, Caliban being arrested and the school burning down are bigger problems, but they are late in the film.

Far too much focus is on the performances in the rehearsals: Seventies rock classics professionally performed but flat and dull. They interfere with the pacing of the first half of the film. They also take up time that could be used to further the characterisation of the children or explore their stories which would make a more interesting film. The musical numbers could work if there was any energy, any rawness to them. There isn't any, they just seem overproduced. None of the character of the performers really comes through in them. This is a shame because they detract from the generally good performances of the actors and disrupt a witty script.

Despite the good dialogue the script is lacking depth. The characters seem a little one dimensional; what they do and how they behave is somewhat cliched. They don't really develop. There are also too many characters and issues to be developed during the course of a film with so much time devoted to the performance of music. There is something nagging about the stage show; the school has access to a quantity of equipment that most small production companies would kill for. When stripped of clutter, Hunky Dory is just about the attempt to put on an over ambitious show and that story just isn't that interesting. Its view of the Seventies is rose tinted and detached from contemporaneous events.

Tacked on at the end is a little epilogue. Before the credits a few of the characters get a line or two under their picture just so you know happens to them in later years. It makes you think has Hunky Dory been adapted from a true story and if so why would anybody bother to make a film of it? I can answer the first part of the question - it's fiction. It's harder to answer the second part.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2012
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Hunky Dory packshot
Marc Evans' latest feature is a sweet and sincere paean to the pre-punk 1970s.
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Director: Marc Evans

Writer: Laurence Coriat

Starring: Minnie Driver, Aneurin Barnard, Danielle Branch, Robert Pugh, Haydn Gwynne

Year: 2011

Runtime: 107 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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