Breathing life into the band is a terrific cast, including Stephen Rea, Jimmy Nail, Timothy Spall and Bill Nighy, each managing to juggle deft archetype with believable character traits: Spall's cheerfully crass, flatulent drummer and Nighy's preening, slow-witted lead singer exemplify the approach, grabbing chuckles yet making you actually care about them. Equally impressive is Billy Connolly as the wily roadie, Hughie, at once pragmatic and devoted to his charges. All are well-served by production details and script points that get the group's lost world of late 60s and early 70s rock exactly right, from costuming and stage moves to the long-forgotten bands they name-check--Blodwyn Pig, anybody?
The band's music likewise benefits from inspired insiders, cowriters Mick Jones (Spooky Tooth, Foreigner) and Chris Difford (Squeeze), who hit a nifty combination of bombast (for the silly scenes) and earnestness. When Gibson and his cast risk the story's amiable glow on a darker, more dramatic final act, the music rises to the challenge and the whole project, like its fictional subject, achieves an unexpectedly touching victory. --Sam Sutherland
Still Crazy follows the fortunes of a 70s rock group that reforms in 1999 to ‘surf the nostalgia wave’ and attempt to bury their acrimonious past and fulfil their previously unrealised potential.
The band are called Strange Fruit and consist of a clichéd bunch of has-beens that are all scarred by their painful, drug addled break up in the late 70’s.
This could have been a bad film or just an average film with its standard formula but it turns out to be a great film and one that I think may achieve cult status as its popularity grows in the slowburning way that ‘Withnail and I’ and ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ did.
The Script is by veterans Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and, as you would expect from the writers of ‘The Likely Lads’ is faultless. It has great dialogue and great gags and a real warmth and depth.
The cast is also faultless and the acting superb.
Stephen Rea is Tony the keyboard player who, having fallen on hard times sets out to reform the group. He enlists the help of Karen (Juliet Aubrey) who was the young, love struck groupie that looked after the bands damaged talent during their short heyday and decides against her better judgement to go for glory once more.
Together they set out to see the other former members, Les Wicks (Jimmy Nail) the Bass player, Beano (Timothy Spall) the drummer and Ray Simms (Bill Nighy) the lead singer and Hughie the roadie (Billy Connolly) to persuade them to reform the group.
Soon the guys hit the road for stardom and as you would expect the old wounds soon open and the atmosphere of anticipation is replaced by one of resentment and bitterness. From here we follow Strange Fruit to their D Day through arguments, reconciliations and laughs.
There is so much to enjoy in this film but the outstanding performance is from Bill Nighy as Ray Simms. Nighy (a highly respected stage actor) is a revelation as Ray and steals the show. He is a vain, ageing, not terribly bright rock has-been who, underneath is ultimately vulnerable and insecure. In the hands of a lesser actor he could be cold and unlikable but in Nighy’s hands we feel for Rays plight and will him to succeed.
Add all of this to a fabulous sound track with some truly great tracks (The best of which are ‘The Flame Still Burns and ‘What Might have Been’) and you have a warm, funny and and toucing film that deals with lost opportunities and hope for the future in a gentle and surprisingly subtle way.
Watch this film and follow the guys on their march back to glory.
Whatever you do buy or rent this film. You won't regret it.
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