Hunky Dory Movie Review
Viv (Driver) is an unorthodox drama teacher at a Swansea school, where she encourages her students to express themselves. But this causes problems when Davey (Barnard) keeps getting knocked back by his crush Stella (Branch), Kenny (Evans) hangs out with a band of skinhead thugs, Jake (MacKay) starts seeing this sister (Nixon) of his best pal (Byard), and Evan (Harries) realises he doesn't like girls. As their class production, a rock-infused version of The Tempest, approaches, everyone will need to take a stand. And it could get rather messy.
The film's groovy vibe is engaging even if there isn't really anyone to properly hold our focus. Although there's bound to be one or two characters with whom we can identify, it's kind of like trying to follow the train of thought in a room where everyone is speaking at the same time. But at least the film looks great, with its gently cluttered production design and good-looking cast, plus a lot of cool period music. In some ways, it's like a 1976 episode of Glee, featuring the songs of David Bowie, the Beach Boys and Dusty Springfield.
Along the way, the characters deal with an array of big issues, including emotional immaturity, sexual confusion, teen drinking and smoking, and more.
And of course at the centre is the whole "show must go on" thing, as the production is continually threatened with closure. But despite some very strong performances, the wispy plot simply isn't robust enough to balance all of these elements. So the film never quite breaks the surface, and the emotional drama never moves us.
Perhaps, being essentially a story about theatrical drama queens, there's just too much of people storming out of rooms in a huff. Maybe there are too many villains trying to suppress our heroes' artistic expression. As every single character has to confront some big obstacle, there's bound to be something that will grab our interest and sympathy. But the film is never much more than a pretty show.