Still Crazy - rated - TEPID

"Rock and Roll, like pornography, is a young person's enterprise. Watching old people do it is gross" - Mr Cranky (

This film doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it The Commitments (the same writers wrote that film)? Is it This is Spinal Tap (it isn't)? Is it The Full Monty (it tries hard)? It is none of these, in fact. It falls between three stools.

Don't get me wrong, though. There's plenty of fun and many laughs in Still Crazy. But it never quite takes off. It ventures interestingly into the darker side of aging, too, but it doesn't quite make the grade there either, despite a marvellous performance by Bill Nighy as Ray Simms (Ray Davies?).

We've seen Bill Nighy before. He is primarily a stage actor, but we have seen him occasionally on screen - in Fairytale, A True Story (1997, Charles Strurridge) and Antonia and Jane (1991, Beeban Kidron). The rest of the cast is excellent, too: there's Stephen Rea, Timothy Spall from Secrets and Lies (1996, Mike Leigh) and Life is Sweet (1990, Mike Leigh), Jimmy Nail and Billy Connolly, in as the roadie/narrator.

I think the problem is that the movie didn't trust itself enough. Was this the fault of the director, Brian Gibson, who directed the highly praised Tina Turner bio-pic What's Love Got to Do with It? Or was it the writers (British TV legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais). Whoever it was, they seem to think that the film needed a charasmatic narrator - so they picked Billy Connolly, and what they got is a bulldozer. It's a very distracting performance indeed.

Nearly every joke and every plot-twist is telegraphed in advance. There are unnecessary subplots concerning the abortive love affairs between (a) Stephen Rea's character and the group's "gofer", a character played by Juliet Aubrey (who tries very hard); and (b) that character's daughter (Rachael Sterling) and the group's new young guitarist (Hans Matheson). Those subplots go nowhere. They bring in a mystery character, played by Bruce Robinson, and then leave those issues dangling too. Incidentally, Robinson was the writer and director of Withnail & I (1987) and Jennifer 8 (1992).

Maybe it's just that I don't buy the redemptive ending. I almost bought it in The Full Monty, but it doesn't get me here. I'm with Mr Cranky: on the whole, the prospect of the band getting back together again just isn't a romantic enough notion for me. It isn't enough to sustain the film. As a matter of fact the music itself isn't a bad facsimile of 70s hard rock. The producers brought in ex-members of Foreigner, Squeeze and ELO to do the honours there, and it sounds authentic enough.

Maybe it's just I can't get over what a bad choice of name "Strange Fruit" is. At one point, the writers even have a black guy from the record company saying "Strange Fruit: cool name." Oh dear! Have really we come so far from the source?