Following on from director Sara Sugarman’s unsatisfying teen flick Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, the filmmaker has returned to her roots somewhat, this time staying closer to home –as she presents Vinyl, not only shot in her hometown of Rhyl, Wales, but also telling the true story of a punk band’s great rock and roll swindle; a band she knows all too well (she dated the bassist, innit).
Based on the real life occurrences surrounding Mike Peters’ band The Alarm, we focus on Weapons of Happiness, a punk four piece who had enjoyed relative success in their prime, yet split up due to the greed and careless irresponsibility of frontman Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels). However when they are reunited for the first time in years at a funeral, Johnny and the other band members (Keith Allen, Perry Benson, Christopher Roy Turner) take a trip down memory lane and, in a drunken haze, decide to record a song called “Free Rock and Roll”.
When listening back the next day and realising how great it sounds they try to pitch it to record companies, yet given their ages no-one takes a punt. So Johnny forms “The Single Shots” and gets a group of willing teenagers – fronted by Drainpipe (Jamie Blackley) – to release the single as their own, to see if the record companies will be interested second time of asking…
Vinyl certainly isn’t the most accomplished of films, but it has a good heart and given the modest budget, does a relatively good job. It does look quite mediocre in its production values, yet in a way such a style suits the film, as it complements the whole punk, do-it-yourself attitude. Sticking it to the man, and all that. Much of the film’s credibility relies on the song “Free Rock and Roll” itself, as in order to believe in this story and have the audience root for Johnny and his band, it needs to be a convincing track and one that could earn the band a record contract – and fortunately, it’s a great little number. Not only is it catchy, but the lyrics are in tune with the overall theme to the film. It’s been in my head ever since. Sadly, however, the same can’t be said of the somewhat generic punk rock soundtrack that accompanies the rest of this title.
The story itself is a fun one and allows Sugarman the chance to be creative – however, it’s fair to say that she uses up her poetic licence to its very limit as we have to endure some completely pointless soap-opera story lines that simply seem out of place. The story is already fascinating and there really isn’t any need to expand on it unnecessarily. Meanwhile the finale seems somewhat misjudged, and doesn’t quite satisfy the viewer as much as one would hope.
There is a feeling of authenticity surrounding this production however, and not only because the woman at the helm is covering such familiar ground, but the casting is spot on too. Don’t get me wrong, the acting itself is far from fantastic, but the likes of Allen and Daniels can be forgiven for their slightly reckless performances as they’re playing rockstars. Put it down to method acting. It does help that both come from musical backgrounds of sorts, and as such they also possess the natural swagger required to make them believable as former punk rockers. Meanwhile, the dynamic between the band is also spot on.
Vinyl is a harmless bit of good fun, and although it’s easy to pick holes, it tells a good story and remains under 90 minutes long, and you just can’t go too far wrong with that really. That said, let’s hope they don’t bring out a second single.