Thursday, May 5, 2011

IFF BOSTON: Submarine (2010)

So in high school I saw Garth Merenghi's Darkplace and learned that Richard Ayoade is hilarious and weird. Then I watched The IT Crowd and learned he is utterly adorable. THEN I saw that he was also a director, and his debut feature Submarine would be playing at IFF Boston. Ever curious, I checked out how he adapted Joe Dunthorne's novel into an offbeat coming-of-age comedy. Craig Roberts stars as high school loser Oliver Tate, who narrates the trivialities of his late 80's-mid 90's humdrum British existence.

His stifled parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) are in a rut, so he commits himself to spying on them, especially after his mother begins spending time with an old flame (Paddy Considine). Oliver is also in love with slightly deranged classmate Jordana (Yasmin Paige), and as their blossoming, uncertain romance coincides with his parents' issues, he becomes more and more disillusioned.

Let me preface my comments by saying that I kind of hated the entire audience at this screening, which definitely affected my viewing. It seems like everyone was a white twentysomething stuck-up hipster, and they all thought this was the best movie ever, and they were so impressed with how meaningful it was, and they all cracked up hysterically at every single so-so joke. It made me resent the film a little bit because while I thought it was a cute movie, it is nowhere near as good as they all seemed to think.

Ok. The story is nothing special, really. This is a typical coming-of-age tale with a somewhat douchey, self-absorbed teenager who is made sympathetic because of his comedic voice. Oliver is quirky and oblivious, but well-meaning and funny, and Craig Roberts did a good job with the role. His love for Jordana doesn't really make much sense, but Yasmin Paige is pretty cute so I guess that's all one needs. It's nice that all the teenagers actually look like teenagers, at any rate. The real stars should have been Oliver's parents, who are hilarious and interesting. It's no secret I love Sally Hawkins, and she is both intriguing and wistful as the dissatisfied Jill. Meanwhile, Noah Taylor is so tragically adorable. I kind of wanted this to be their story, especially with the addition of a mulleted Paddy Considine as a weird self-help guru trying to win back Jill's heart.

The great cast elevates the middling script, which has some great comic moments but at times is too uneven and seems to pick and choose certain plot elements without much reason. What was the deal with the bullied girl at the beginning? What relevance did that have to the story, except to show that everyone is a jerk? It is filmed fairly well, with a cool range of techniques and a nice nostalgic glow covering everything. Too many red fade-outs, though. I dug the soundtrack from Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, too.

Submarine is not at all a bad film. I found it enjoyable and cute, and a solid first writing/directing effort from Ayoade. But honestly, it's just not that special. It doesn't really do anything new with the tried-and-true coming-of-age formula. The fact that we legitimately heard people walking out of the theater talking about its great "emotional depth" and whatnot, I wonder if maybe no one else knows anything about movies? Hmm.


Pair This Movie With: I kind of hate to say it since everyone else already has, but it really is quite similar to Rushmore, and if you like one you'll probably like the other.


  1. a british rushmore? sounds quelle odd.

    have you picked up on why the hipsters flocked to this film? id be fascinated to know. just so i cant be even more hipster than the perth hipsters when it screens here, obviously.

    and we regularly get the feeling that nobody knows anything about movies when we leave a public screening of anything. it just means you have a brain alex.

  2. Toby: I don't know why hipsters were so attracted to this. I'm assuming it's a combination of the many comparisons to RUSHMORE it was getting in reviews and summaries, and the fact that someone from THE IT CROWD directed it. Also the movie theater is right next to a liberal arts college so they all flock there anyway, I guess.

    And yes it is good know we have brains haha.

  3. i have now seen it and can see why hipsters loved it. it's got the 80's retro thing going, the characters are living the lives hipsters wish they could live. although what would they do without movile phones?

    i enjoyed it a little more than you i think. i found very few problems with the whole but still felt a little underwhelmed.