This review was first run during the Melbourne International Film Festival. Submarine opens nationally on September 8, 2011.
Give me an affectation-heavy coming-of-age comedy, and make it extra affectatious! Richard Ayoade (best known as Moss from The IT Crowd) makes his feature film directorial debut with Submarine, an adaptation of Joe Dunthorne’s novel of the same name. It stars Craig Roberts as Oliver Tate, a teenager cut from the same cloth as Rushmore’s Max Fischer. He listens to Serge Gainsbourg, reads Nietzsche, watches silent films at restoration cinemas … wait, where are you going?! Stay!
OK, OK, it reads as obscenely cute and quirky, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In the wake of Wes Anderson‘s success, we’ve seen plenty of aesthetic imitators come and go. They didn’t realise it wasn’t Wes’ style alone that made his films so memorable; it was also his ability to fuse profound sadness and universal human truths with delightful comedy, and wrap it up in such a unique package. Ayoade doesn’t ape Anderson, but he achieves similar magic, delivering a sad, funny little film that takes no shame in its visual influences (French new wave, nostalgic Super 8).
It may occasionally look like it was shot on a Hipstamatic camera, but there is much more under the surface (geddit?) of Submarine. Credit also belongs to the brilliant cast, especially Roberts, but also Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins as his on-the-rocks parents, Yasmin Paige as his first love and the brilliant Paddy Considine as a ninja-like mystic who believes he can harness the power of light for spiritual rejuvenation. He also has a van with a bed in the back. You know this guy.
Submarine opens nationally on September 8, 2011.