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Review: Everything is not 'Hunky Dory'

Minnie Driver stars in this feel-good treacle that saps the audience's energy before the glitter-infused finale.

March 21, 2013|By Amy Nicholson
  • Minnie Driver in "Hunky Dory."
Minnie Driver in "Hunky Dory." (Variance Films )

The high school "Let's Put on a Show!" genre has churned through so many Shakespeares that Steve Coogan was forced to invent "Hamlet 2." No matter. "Hunky Dory" director Marc Evans is happy to recycle "The Tempest" with a twist: classic rock. Picture Caliban singing the Byrds.

Minnie Driver plays the pushover drama teacher who tries, and largely fails, to wrangle her students at a blue-collar Welsh school in 1976. She's so bad at establishing adult boundaries that if this were a Lifetime flick she'd cross a criminal line with swoon-worthy student Davey (Aneurin Barnard) in the play's role of Ferdinand instead of merely mooning over him when she subs in as Miranda and later sneaks a quick kiss. That movie would be more interesting than this golden-hued, feel-good treacle, the sort that the U.K. has tried to export ever since "Billy Elliot."

A series of escalating disasters threatens to derail the big show (among them, a fire that incinerates the psychedelic papier-mâché mushrooms), and Driver responds with the wan fretfulness of someone who's misplaced her keys. The larger problem is Laurence Coriat's shapeless script, which pads its overlong running time with standard teen trauma — band squabbles, girl betrayals, skinhead brothers — that saps the audience's energy before the grand finale: a heady, glitter-infused "Tempest" that's David Bowie meets Wes Anderson meets ELO.

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"Hunky Dory."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

At Laemmle's Music Hall, Beverly Hills.

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