Setting Shakespeare’s The Tempest in space isn’t a novel idea: The 1956 film Forbidden Planet, in which earthlings take a starship to an alien planet, was based on the Bard’s dreamlike play. But there’s something charming about making David Bowie, and in particular his song “Life on Mars?”, the guiding light of a production starring working-class Welsh teenagers. That’s what happens in the nostalgia-soaked Hunky Dory, which channels some of The Tempest’s whimsy but none of its focus. It’s 1976 during the U.K.’s hottest summer on record, and high-school drama teacher Vivienne Mae (Minnie Driver) decides to stage a rock-opera Tempest that, she says, would make both Shakespeare and Bowie proud. While Vivienne’s students might be fans of rock ’n’ roll, they’re also fans of drugs and sex, which have a way of interfering with rehearsal. But free-spirited Vivienne has a hard-driving streak—she shows up at the community swimming pool with a megaphone to round up absent cast members—and she soldiers through dropouts and disasters to mount the production, complete with shadow puppet aliens, thick eyeliner and gobs of glitter. While the renditions of Beach Boys and ELO songs are spunky and appealing, director Marc Evans can’t manage all his narrative threads. Rather than probing either Shakespeare’s themes or teenage melodrama, Evans lets it all dissolve, rather blandly, into the ether.
- Running Time:
- Release Date: Tuesday, April 30, 2013
- Critic's Score: C+
- Watch the trailer