REVIEW: Submarine

3 07 2011

While sitting in “Submarine,” a coming-of-age dramedy import from our Welsh friends across the pond, there were moments when I thought I was going to give the movie unequivocal praise.  It had the eye-catching look and the quirky feel of a Wes Anderson film.  With its simple, geometric shots, clean editing, and eccentric characters navigating through some hilariously mundane situations, it could be the long lost foreign cousin of “Rushmore” (or a very flattering imitation).

And coming out of high school, I definitely felt that Craig Roberts’ protagonist Oliver Tate, despite our cultural differences, was one of the freshest portrayals of the confusion and the jumble of feelings that is growing up.  With his anthropological observations on the high school food chain and the social sphere in general crackling with wit, he reminds us how out of touch the cinematic visions of this age really are.  His quest to lose his virginity for a variety of underlying social factors is absolutely hysterical without ever losing touch with reality or authenticity.

But as the film shifts gears from this burst of postpubescent energy, this submarine begins to sink.  The emotions become more reserved, and the film’s energy goes along with it.  I can understand the cinematic reasons for the tonal shift: it doesn’t seem appropriate to have the same pop when dealing with the failing marriage of his parents (Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins) and the potentially terminal illness of his girlfriend’s mother.  On the other hand, there is a way to convey those emotions without losing the joie de vivre that was so vibrant in the beginning.

Considering that “Submarine” is the directorial debut of Richard Ayoade, I’ll just chalk up some of the tonal problems and the resultant tinges of boredom to being rookie mistakes.  But I will echo the critical consensus – look for great things from this director in the future.  Once he gets a few more films under his belt, the things Ayoade can do so brilliantly will shine brightly.  B- / 

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