I am usually not a diehard fan of musicals. But, Hunky Dory had me intrigued by its song choices- artists like David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Elo, and The Byrds- so I decided to give it a chance! The result? A mix of Glee meets High School Musical, with a definitve 70s spin!
The film takes place during 1976 and focuses on a fiery high school drama teacher, Vivienne (Minnie Driver), who tries to put on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” with her students. Her goal is to knock the apathy out of these teens and put on the best glam-rock infused musical version of Shakespeare the school, or anyone for that matter, had ever seen.
However, Vivienne must contend with the many changes and adolescent problems and distractions that teens face- sex, drugs, and well, can Rock ‘n Roll really compete? The film, from the producer of Billy Elliot, is done entirely as a Shakespearian rock opera which was so GROOVY to see! Driver does an excellent job playing the free-spirited liberal teacher whom many of the students really connect with, and despite all the disapprovals about the play from other conservative teachers, sports coaches, and relatives, the teens shine through in the feel-good ending.
Hunky Dory dances between a comedic musical and nostalgic drama with some success. If you are looking for a trip down memory lane to your teen years, with some added rock performances, you will certainly enjoy it. But for me, the film faultered in its lack of originality. The setting and story borrows too much from Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confusedand School of Rock. The teen’s individual stories aren’t given enough time to develop and perhaps Hunky Dory would play out better as a TV mini-series. As is, the characters are way too predictable and one-dimensional to make the film a huge commercial success.
Expect some casual chuckles in the Welsh countryside, but not righteous laughs! Hunky Dory won’t have you super excited or wanting more. It will keep you calm and pleasantly sitting in your chair thinking about your old adolescent years and what teachers you had in high school…sigh!
Hunky Dory will open March 22nd in NY and LA with a theatrical release to follow. Watch the trailer here.