Let's Put on a Show!
Watching Hunky Dory made me feel quite nostalgic. I immediately identified with Viv, a Drama instructor in Wales trying to put on a school’s annual end-of-term musical production back in 1976. But even though my past includes being involved in similar events while teaching Social Studies to teens, I consider Viv -- played engagingly by the great Minnie Driver -- more courageous than I could ever be, past or present.
Viv’s ambitious goal? Staging Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a musical incorporating tunes by such seventies artists as David Bowie, The Beach Boys, The Byrds and Nick Drake. My experience with a series of Student/Faculty Follies pales in comparison. In fact, I believe working with youngsters on those productions are some of the “best of times” in my memory.
However, the dedicated Viv faces many problems in carrying out her artistic mission. There’s Miss Valentine (Haydn Gwynne), a jealous colleague, who seems bent on sabotaging the project. And a few students are apathetic, while others often become distracted because of situations caused by broken homes, economic hardships and romantic heartbreaks. Thankfully, the Headmaster (Robert Pugh, simply delightful here) does his best to offer moral support, even to the point of taking on one of the roles in an emergency. This administrator truly believes in the importance of the arts in education!
Because of Viv’s passion for her students and the creative process, we want her to overcome all the obstacles she faces -- even when she makes a teacher/student relationship mistake and when something catastrophic happens. Will she succeed? I can’t reveal the ending, of course. But here’s a little hint. Just remember the old saying, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
Hunky Dory offers much to admire. I especially enjoyed those entertaining rehearsal scenes. The student band and singers wowed me. What a treat to see teens engaged in relating the song lyrics and Shakespeare’s lines to their own lives -- under the direction of a motivating instructor! Charismatic Aneurin Barnard (Citadel) stands out because of his sensitive performance as one of the most talented students. Plus, the glorious finale almost took my breath away. But this movie is not perfect -- too many short scenes jumbled together make it hard to follow at times. Nevertheless, I don’t think movie musical fans should pass up a chance to see Hunky Dory.
(Released by Variance Films; not rated by MPAA.)
For more information about this film, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.