You have to wonder when a small, unheralded movie grabs a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture — Musical or Comedy. Hell, no actor in this uniformly talented cast packs the star wattage that usually prompts celebrity-chasing Globe voters to line up for a souvenir photo. But why kick a gift horse? Although Still Crazy can’t match the better, brighter comedies that failed to win a nomination — Rushmore, The Opposite of Sex, Your Friends and Neighbors and A Bug’s Life — it’s still a prime piece of entertainment.
Rea, an Oscar nominee for The Crying Game, stars as Tony Costello. Once the keyboardist for the fictional Seventies band Strange Fruit, Tony now runs a condom concession in bar toilets in Ibiza, off the coast of Spain. A chance meeting with a Fruit fan brings the opportunity for a reunion concert at the Wisbech rock festival, if Tony can first round up his former mates for a tour of Holland. No easy task, since the Fruit have long since spoiled on one another. Lead singer Ray Simms (Bill Nighy) still ekes out a music career thanks to his pushy wife, Astrid (Helena Bergstrom), but drummer Beano Baggot (Timothy Spall) is a gardener gone to fat, singer-bassist Les Wickes (Jimmy Nail) runs a struggling roofing business, and lead guitarist Brian Lovell (Bruce Robinson), who drew the most groupies, is rumored to be dead. With the aid of Karen (Juliet Aubrey), the band’s personal assistant, and Hughie (Connolly), a Scottish roadie, Tony does put the Fruit back on their shaky feet. To take the edge off these geezers — they’re all pushing fifty — young guitarist Luke Shand (Hans Matheson) stomps around in tight pants that attract Karen’s teen daughter, Clare (Rachael Stirling).
Inspired by a disastrous reunion tour of the Animals, Still Crazy plays like This Is Spinal Tap meets The Commitments. The latter was written by this film’s writers and executive producers, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Director Brian Gibson, who guided Tina Turner’s story in What’s Love Got to Do With It, achieves a solid blend of humor and heart. The cast hits all the right notes, with Nighy a standout in a scene that shows Ray’s confidence restored by the roar of the crowd. And credit the music by Mick Jones of Foreigner and the lyrics by Chris Difford of Squeeze for capturing the vitality as well as the bombast of Seventies rock. When Strange Fruit reunite to sing “The Flame Still Burn”‘ at the film’s climax, you might find it hard to disagree.