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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Quadrophenia

Starring: Phil Daniels, Mark Wingett
Director: Franc Roddam
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: September 1979
Genres: Drama, Music

*Also starring: Philip Davis, Leslie Ash, Garry Cooper, Sting

Review by Mark Fleming
4 stars out of 4

As The Jam once sang: 'Life is a drink, and you get drunk when you're young.'

This exhilarating tour-de-force is set in London in 1964: a booming era where wage-earning teenagers are eager for fashion, socializing, recreational drugs and music. Above all, it focuses on the emergence of the 'Modernist' or Mod youth movement; and their tribal war with their 50's throwback enemies, the grubby, Gene Vincent-adoring Rockers. The attention to detail is so vivid that while you are aware of the often pointless superficiality of the Mod scene, you are at once drawn into its pulsating heart. Director Franc Roddam employs a young and virtually unknown cast, and this gives the acting a natural rawness which brings the action alive. Gate-crashing parties, breaking into chemists, scooter rallies, trips to Brighton, and Monday comedowns is the world where Jimmy (Phil Daniels) exists. We may recognize aspects of it; we all empathise when events career out of control. Roddam refuses to patronise or condemn the anti-social behaviour of these teenagers. Ultimately, the core issue of Quadrophenia is one young man's breakdown.

Paul Daniels gives a career-best performance as Jimmy, a cocky hedonist with an insecure streak. He puts his whole life into being a Mod, but always lays himself open to disappointment. The girl of his dreams (Leslie Ash) is only leading him along; a hated Rocker (Ray Winstone) turns out to be a childhood mate; the 'Ace Face' of Brighton (Sting) is a hotel lackey; all his mates are merely weekend Mods to be part of a gang. Every one of the boisterous cast plays their part in this definitive recreation of the Mod era.

From its opening scenes, where a multi-mirrored scooter driver patrols London, keeping one eye out for girls, the other for Rockers, we are plunged into Jimmy's teenage world of highs and lows. With the progressing storyline we encounter the amphetamine-fuelled escapades of his gang, as they meet in milk bars and plan their Bank Holiday excursion. None of them are looking for anything more in life; Jimmy alone feels that something is missing, although he has no idea what this could possibly be.

Quadrophenia is a raw and flawless depiction of a post-war London on the cusp of the Swinging 60's, and the youth cults enacting their alternative lifestyles at that time. Particularly vivid are the gangs converging on Brighton, and the riots that instigated tabloid fury.

There are many tremendous scenes. When a hungover Jimmy throws up in his office toilets, two of his bosses pretend he isn't there. After encountering an old mate at the local baths, Jimmy freezes when he sees the guy wearing Rocker clothes. He is trapped in a tribal mindset.

Because the story is well and truly 'of the instant', the narrative merely grinds to a halt after the anti-climax of Brighton weekend. We never really know where Jimmy is going next. A brilliant depiction of life in a youth cult. Quadrophenia is loud, brash, gritty and quintessentially British. A celebration of what they called 'My Generation' over quarter of a century ago.

Copyright 2001 Mark Fleming

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