Directed by: Richard Ayoade Cast: Craig Roberts, Yasmin Paige, Paddy Considine Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: R Release Date: June 10, 2011 (Chicago)
PLOT: A young man (Roberts) becomes interested in a unique young woman (Paige) while dealing with his parents' tense relationship.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Submarine is best for those who think movies are cute when their leads are defined by their awkwardness. Being empowered by a film’s mentioning of classic movies and musical artists is a plus. Fans of Ayoade’s earlier television material are a toss-up when it comes to enjoying the heart of this movie, though they're likely familiar with the comedic style.
EXPECTATIONS: These are the notes I scribbled down before seeing the film: “Another quirky Sundance movie? Lots of visual style? Awkward acting, quirky visual style? Lots of American Apparel?”
Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate: He is quietly amused by his misery, and seems to get a kick out of his blank stares. Pencil-diving spontaneously into a pool while in full cold weather gear is the type of delight for this obnoxious character, who hardly makes for someone we care to relate to. Oliver is a flat comic presence, and takes the dryness of Submarine to a bad spot. Score: 5
Yasmin Paige as Jordana Bevan: One minimal aspect of "freshness" that Submarine includes is Jordana. She doesn't look like Zooey Deschanel, (or any other female type that quirky movies have tried to promote) she's a bit of a true meanie, and she's manipulative. In some senses she works against the tides of this movie, which is refreshing considering Oliver's poor control of Submarine's tone and heart. Score: 6
Paddy Considine as Graham Purvis: Attempts to shake off a mid-film feeling that Submarine isn't special are squashed by Graham, a lame nuisance of a character who is made for cheap humor with his unfortunate mullet and overdramatic love for mysticism. Much too easily, Graham could be imagined in Napoleon Dynamite. Score: 3
TALKING: The script speaks with short sentences, and is delivered by the actors as if their laxatives haven’t yet taken effect. Interactions between characters are forcefully awkward, which makes them unamusing. Oliver’s voiceover is unbearably narcissistic with his desire to be followed around by a documentary crew, or his musings about what his funeral will look like. Score: 4
SIGHTS: Though it has brief bits of sincerity, the visual style of Submarine is cliché. Were tracking shots and center framing of characters not pummeled to the ground by Wes Anderson and his subsequent army of wannabes, this film might be able to fairly think of itself as “original.” The film does set itself slightly apart from Anderson with its usage of a handheld camera (something a colleague pointed out), but it heads right back into sadly familiar territory with the usage of chapter title cards and voiceover-led montages. Score: 4
SOUNDS: Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys contributes some solo acoustic feet-tappers for the Submarine soundtrack. The original gloomy tunes are often used in montages, and give visually emotional moments a laidback dour feeling. This collection of songs, which apparently is being packaged as an EP, might be Submarine’s most valuable asset. Key tracks include “Stuck on the Puzzle” and “Piledriver Waltz.” Score: 7
BEST SCENE: I guffawed at Hawkins’ revealing of what she and Graham did in the car. I was relieved to have laughed at least once by the movie.
ENDING: A bit tidy. Jordana’s appearance on the beach is … bleh; convenient for a clean conclusion, or the sign of the movie’s fantasy elements? Perhaps it’s just a lazy finale?
QUESTIONS: How well will this do with audiences? Am I alone in my grievances with this movie? You can read my interview with writer/director Richard Ayaoade here.
REWATCHABILITY: No, thanks. I don’t care to see whether Submarine would work better in a second round, especially since the first time was such a disappointment. I’d much rather go see Beginners again instead (and you should too).
Perhaps the non-nautical film Submarine chose such a name because The Life Aquatic had already been thought of by someone else.
However pure Ayoade's intentions may have been with his debut, it soon becomes prominent that this film is comfortable being a composite of its influences which glare throughout. Submarine quickly looks familiar in style and tone, and the general story elements continue to devoid the audience of authentic surprises. In too many ways, this movie becomes regrettably expected, with its dry humor and and attempts at providing a young man's coming-of-age tale.
Focused on fitting into a style that is comfortable and somehow doesn't make audiences sick yet, Submarine takes a lot from its predecessors in heartfelt art, but makes a fatal mistake. A true heart in Submarine just isn't there. In the midst of such stylistic borrowings, Submarine forgets that emotions can't float without sincerity.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10