{2jtab: Movie Review}

Submarine - Movie Review


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3 stars

Richard Ayoade, probably best known for his role in Britain’s The IT Crowd, accepts as his first directorial challenge, the adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s quirky, coming-of-age novel called Submarine. A daunting challenge for sure as much of Dunthorne’s humor lies in the tension between what you think just happened and what the story’s main character, Oliver, is telling you just happened. In other words, two different realities playfully juxtaposed against one another.

That’s a difficult effect to bring to the screen, but Ayoade, standing in as a worthy Wes Anderson starter kit, successfully follows in the footsteps of the master of deadpan with a fresh, quirky, teen-angst drama that plays out somewhat like a Welsh Rushmore.

Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) is a nerdy high-school loner whose paradigm far exceeds that of most kids his own age. His ambitions to save his parents’ marriage and to lose his virginity before his next birthday, unspool over the course of the film in an offbeat tale that Oliver himself mockingly says (via a note to the press in the film’s production notes) will feature some helicopter shots, elaborate set-pieces, a three hour runtime, and even some slo-mo action sequences that should be described by critics as “irresistible” and “a monumental achievement.”

Though Ayoade lays off the helicopter shots and elaborate set-pieces in the inherently disjointed 97-minute affair, he is confident enough to incorporate a mish-mash of camera tricks that, despite their gimmicky familiarity, suit Oliver’s somewhat pompous, inward-pointing nature perfectly. Freeze frame/voice-over character introductions, block-lettered, screen-filling title cards, and some grainy Super 8 snippets mesh seamlessly into the film’s flow as if handled by a veteran filmmaker.

When not bullying the school’s overweight girl to win the affection of the mischievous pyromaniac Jordana (Yasmin Paige), who likes to singe her lover’s leg hair with a match, Oliver is fretting over his parents’ marital crisis. He measures their lack of sex with a mark on the bedroom’s dimmer switch. Not only does he discover that his mother, Jill (Sally Hawkins) is being lured by an old flame in the person of Graham (Paddy Considine), a one time TV-show-host-turned-motivational-guru, but Oliver must also deal with the fact that his marine biologist father, Lloyd (Noah Taylor) is sinking deeper and deeper into depression. Can he save their marriage? Can he lose his virginity? And can he do it all before his coming 16th birthday?

Submarine isn’t likely to appeal to everyone. Nor will all of its parts excite those who do like it. It certainly has its share of structural, thematic, and storytelling flaws, and it sometimes just seems to want to dabble in quirkiness for the sake of being quirky. But there are just enough good things going on to appeal to most lovers of this current wave of gloomy teen-agony films we’ve been experiencing over the last decade or so.

The film’s biggest surprises come from the performances of the young actors in a film that finds most of its success working the fringes of conventional tone and self-deprecating awareness. A tricky pony to ride, especially with an inexperienced director at the helm. But if this is the kind of films Ayoade hopes to continue to make, he’s well on his way to picking up a loyal legion of fans.

If for no other reason, watch it to say you knew Richard Ayoade way back when.


{2jtab: Film Details}

Submarine - Movie ReviewMPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content.
Director: Richard Ayoade
: Richard Ayoade
Noah Taylor; Paddy Considine; Craig Roberts; Yasmin Paige; Sally Hawkins
: Comedy | Drama | Indie
Memorable Movie Quote:
"I suppose it's somewhat of an affectation, but I sometimes wish there was a film crew following my every move."
The Weinstein Company
Official Site:

Release Date: June 3, 2011
Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available

Plot Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents' marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom is having an affair with New Age weirdo Graham, Oliver monitors his parents' sex life by charting the dimmer switch in their bedroom. He also forges suggestive love letters from his mom to dad. Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to woo his classmate, Jordana, a self-professed pyromaniac who supervises his journal writing - especially the bits about her. When necessary, she orders him to cross things out. Based on Joe Dunthorne's acclaimed novel, Submarine is a captivating coming-of-age story with an offbeat edge.


{2jtab: Blu-ray/DVD Review}

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