By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
The more I write, the harder it is to please me, it seems. Submarine has all of the things guaranteed to pique my interest. Highly imaginative and visually innovative first person coming of age story a la Rushmore or Catcher in the Rye? Yes, please. Shoot, it’s even Welsh, which forms a good chunk of my ancestry (although, like the protagonist, Oliver Tate, the most cred I can think of for it is an actress everyone assumes is Latina).
Careful, Zorro, she’s not who she says she is
Anyways, Submarine didn’t quite reach the heights I was hoping for, or maybe I am becoming as stuffy as the critics that actually get paid for this.
There is an awful lot to like about this film. This is director Richard Ayoade’s first film, but it would be difficult to tell that from the result. He mixes a stunning array of shots and transitions like a pro and has a real eye for setting. You could pick stills at random, frame them, and throw them up on your wall.
Except for this one. Unless it is on black velvet.
He also has a deft hand with the story, taking what is essentially Oliver’s very narrow viewpoint and creating fully fleshed out characters based on their reactions to it. This takes some pretty good acting as well, particularly from Yasmin Paige, who plays romantic interest Jordana.
A final raised glass to the film’s near constant, almost meta, striving to break convention. This results in more surprises than you usually get in what is a pretty standard plot: an intelligent outsider teen narrates his attempts at love, growth, and figuring out his place in the world.
In this economy…
You remember the guy from the still above? Yeah, drink a beer when he shows up. The character himself plays a pretty important part, but everything about him fits better in a Napoleon Dynamite-style universe than this film. Self-conscious quirks like this sap at the otherwise realistic and relatable world Ayoade creates.
The main thing holding this movie back is that, especially for a protagonist we’re supposed to empathize with, Oliver is kind of a creep. Every time he spies on his mother or discusses his parent’s sex life with them the more obvious it becomes that the kid is completely confused by social convention and propriety and puts on a thin veneer of French New Wave coolness to try and make up for it. While that’s kind of the point, it starts to get hard to root for the guy.
Stop. Just stop it.
If indie flicks are your thing, it’s definitely worth a watch, and was just a few points away from great. Richard Ayoade is certainly someone to keep an eye on.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every close up on Jordana
Take a Drink: every time Oliver does something sketchy
Drink a Shot: for every dream or imagination sequence