Still Crazy [1998]

This gently satirical British comedy chronicles the quixotic reunion of a late, arguably not-so-great, and unlamented '70s rock band, Strange Fruit, with a winning mix of humor and poignancy. The "Fruits," as the survivors call themselves without irony, had disbanded after the tragic loss of one member, the mysterious disappearance of another, and the aftershocks of internal rivalries, but 20 years later they warily reassemble for a Dutch club tour, a warm-up for a proposed festival appearance. Between that seemingly hare-brained proposal and the fateful festival, director Brian Gibson, working from a sharp script by Dick Clement and Ian LaFrenais, captures the absurdities of middle-aged rockers trying to recapture that lost cockiness. Breathing life into the band is a terrific cast, including Stephen Rea, Jimmy Nail, Timothy Spall, and Bill Nighy, each managing to juggle deft archetype with believable character traits: Spall's cheerfully crass, flatulent drummer, and Nighy's preening, slow-witted lead singer exemplify the approach, grabbing chuckles yet making you actually care about them. Equally impressive is Billy Connolly as the wily roadie, Hughie, at once pragmatic and devoted to his charges. All are well-served by production details and script points that get the group's lost world of late '60s and early '70s rock exactly right, from costuming and stage moves to the long-forgotten bands they name-check--Blodwyn Pig, anybody? The band's music likewise benefits from inspired insiders, cowriters Mick Jones (Spooky Tooth, Foreigner) and Chris Difford (Squeeze), who hit a nifty combination of bombast (for the silly scenes) and earnestness. When Gibson and his cast risk the story's amiable glow on a darker, more dramatic final act, the music rises to the challenge, and the whole project, like its fictional subject, achieves an unexpectedly touching victory. --Sam Sutherland

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