Off-beat British independent classic or failed attempt?
'Svengali' pulls together some of the most popular British actors and comedians for a film that satirises the music industry. At the centre of all this is Dixie, a postman from South Wales played by Jonny Owen who dreams of finding the next big band - until he does. What follows is a classic fish-out-of-water underdog story that sees our Dixie navigate the notoriously fickle music industry.
Vicky McClure and Jonny Owens star in 'Svengali'
The film also stars Vicky McClure, otherwise known as the queen of independent British cinema. Having made her name in ‘This is England’ and the subsequent spin-offs, she is arguably the headline cast member in a long list of home-grown heroes.
But for all the talent involved, does Jonny Owen’s film (he writes, stars and produces) hit the mark, or is it a failed attempt to capture a zeitgeist so successfully translated into cinematic folklore? Time to turn to the critics.
Olly Richards from Empire Magazine kicks off our roundup, with a solid start. “It is refreshing to watch a film that draws together characters from across the British Isles in a way that is not only watchable, but reasonably well put together too,” he writes. “Its writer/star has the charm and warmth to keep this muso fairy tale on the tracks and there are entertaining spot-the-rocker cameos galore,” writes David Sztypuljak for HeyUGuys.
“The film is full of fun juxtapositions: Dixie’s alluring naivety and geniality contradicts with his dreams of following in the footsteps of the Svengali figures he admires – a theme that Owen follows right the way through,” says The Upcoming’s Theodora Munroe. “Then, there is the stark contrast of living in bohemian London with rural Britain: harsh and rich London compared with the warmth of impoverished Wales. And, lastly, the reality that comes of mixing ambition with love.”
It’s a bit early to start giving the film Rotten Tomatoes ratings, given that its released at the end of the week (March 21). But the general consensus is that of ‘could do better’. It’s charming, funny and ‘watchable’, as the critics mention, but certainly won’t be a stand out picture in the annals of indie music-movie history.