Still Crazy

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Still Crazy
Still crazy cover.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Brian Gibson
Produced by Amanda Marmot
Written by Dick Clement
Ian La Frenais
Starring Stephen Rea
Billy Connolly
Bill Nighy
Timothy Spall
Jimmy Nail
Juliet Aubrey
Edited by Peter Boyle
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • 30 October 1998 (1998-10-30)
Running time 95 min.
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $524,864

Still Crazy is a 1998 British comedy film about a fictional 1970s rock band named "Strange Fruit", who, after being split up for two decades, are persuaded to get back together to perform at a reunion of the same concert venue where they played their last gig. The film focuses on the personal lives of the band members and those closest to them, and their individual experiences with approaching middle-age and the success that eluded them.

It was nominated for two Golden Globes in 1999.

Plot[edit]

The film opens with the band performing at the 1977 Wisbech Rock Festival. Hughie Case is giving a commentary of how, due to the pursuit of "fame, fortune and fornication" (as well as the drug overdose of their original singer, Keith Lovell), that was their last performance. At the start of their set, lightning strikes the stage and technical problems befall their equipment so the band prematurely ends their performance, frustrated over competing egos and various members' lack of self-control.

Skip ahead 20 years. Keyboardist Tony Costello, who now lives in Ibiza, is recognised as one of the members of Strange Fruit by a stranger at a café, whose father happened to be the organiser of the original Wisbech Festival. The stranger tells Tony that they are doing a Wisbech reunion concert and asks if Tony can reunite the band.

Tony quickly manages to track down Karen Knowles, the band's original runaround-girl. She is, at first, reluctant to become involved with the reunion, but is unhappy working in PR and becomes inspired to return to the band after finding some memorabilia in her garage. She agrees, but insists on being the band's Manager. Tony has no problem with this.

Gradually, Karen and Tony track down the original members: bassist Les Wickes, who has a family and works as a roofer, drummer David "Beano" Baggot, who is working at a nursery and is on the run from the Inland Revenue due to a large sum of money owed due to a bad business deal, and lead singer Ray Simms, who, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, is now completely sober and attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, is living in a mansion with his overbearing Swedish wife, Astrid, and apparently working on a solo album (however the reality is that the bank will foreclose on his mansion and he hasn't released a solo single in years). The band meets up at the real-life Red Lion pub in Avebury (the only pub in the world to be located inside a neolithic stone circle) to discuss the reunion. Everyone expects Brian Lovell, the band's lead guitarist, to be there; however, Karen shows up and breaks the news that she was unable to locate Brian, although she learned that he gave away all of his royalties to a U.S. charity as a bequest. Everyone comes to the conclusion that Brian is dead and they decide to soldier on with the reunion and agree to play the festival. Their roadie, Hughie, turns up unexpectedly during their first rehearsal. Ray insists on playing guitar at first, but everyone convinces him to concentrate on just singing and, soon after, they find a replacement for Brian in young Luke Shand, a talented guitarist, but who remains blissfully unaware of the tensions within the band.

The band embark upon a warm-up tour of Europe after Karen negotiates with a record company executive who now owns the rights to their back catalogue. Their initial performances aren't very good and they are poorly received by the younger generation. Ray still has delusions of grandeur (even going so far as to mistake a credit card signature from a pizza delivery as a request for his autograph); Les still resents Ray for having replaced Keith; Les and Beano (and Hughie, although he has little influence in the band) have little hope for the band, firmly believing both Keith and then Brian were the main talent; and Tony begins to make advances to Karen, but she is reluctant to respond as she had always been deeply attached to Brian.

At one of the gigs, Ray dresses in a ridiculous glam-metal outfit, places smoke machines around the stage, and secretly gets Hughie to raise the volume levels to their maximum. Ray believes that this will boost his performance abilities but, during the performance of their song "Scream Freedom", everything backfires and Les, followed by Ray, walk off stage in a huff, while Tony, Luke and Beano play on. Ray and Les confront each other about their mutual hatred; this causes Ray to have a nervous breakdown. This is in addition to his depression over the fact that it's his 50th birthday. Ray ends up running away from the gig, buys drugs from a street dealer then falls into an icy canal. He is rescued by Karen's daughter, Claire. Astrid also meets up with the band at this show and is completely devastated at Ray's near-drowning and blames Karen for it. A Also, the loud volumes of the concert caused every window in the venue to break and the promoters and townspeople want the band to pay for it, so they lock up their tourbus as collateral. The band, however, is able to break out the bus and the band quickly skips town. On the bus next morning, Les apologises to Ray for his previous remarks (prompted by a white lie from Tony that Ray tried to commit suicide because of Les' comments), and Ray apologises for his behaviour and shares with the rest of the band that, while in the canal, he "received a positive message" from Brian's ghost.

The bus breaks down and Karen confronts the band about their lack of confidence. They meet a girl who's heading to Antwerp wearing a Strange Fruit tour T-shirt. She says belonged to her father. The band believes this to be another positive omen. The next few shows go down without incident and go over well with audiences and they become slightly more optimistic. A week later, they get a record deal and quickly enter the studio to record new material, which includes a new song written and sung by Les (something which Ray had not allowed before). However, after watching a previously-taped drunken TV interview with Zoë Ball (in a cameo as herself) in which Les and Beano imply that the band was much better with Keith and Brian, Ray breaks down again and quits.

As the band members return to their former lives, Karen and Claire visit Keith's grave to pay their respects. They find a note there. It reads: "Even after all this time the flame still burns. Love you, man. Brian". It's referring to a song called "The Flame Still Burns", written by Les and Brian, about Keith after his death. Karen and Claire confront Hughie, who indeed knows that Brian is still alive, and reluctantly tells where Brian is. Karen and Tony finally find Brian, who has admitted himself to a psychiatric hospital. He explains that he gave away his earnings because he wanted to sever himself, as much as possible, from his previous life. He agrees to talk to the band and try to reconcile them so they can continue playing. His return brings the band back together. However, the pre-show press conference at the festival involves some hostile questions aimed at Brian, such as whether his breakdown was chemically induced or was a result of his brother's death, whether he really had spent the intervening years in a mental hospital, or if the whole thing was simply a publicity stunt. This all proves too much for Brian and he walks out of the conference, followed by the rest of the band except for Luke, who slams on the journalists, calling them insensitive to Brian's mental state and that the band deserves more respect. Brian decides to back out of the show, but gives his blessing for the rest of the band to perform.

Meanwhile, a woman who Beano thinks is from the Inland Revenue and has been hunting him throughout the course of the film, corners him backstage and reveals that he was in the first band she ever saw as a teenager. Her father forbade her from ever again going to a rock show and she has been obsessed with Beano ever since. She demands quick, violent sex from Beano, which causes him to almost miss their set. However, he finally turns up at the last minute, right after Les suggests getting another drummer.

The band starts their set with the same song with which they opened up the last Wisbech Festival. However, a short burst of feedback shakes Ray's confidence and he starts to break down. Tony then starts playing the intro to "The Flame Still Burns" on his keyboard, which quickly heals the tension. Brian is pleased to hear the band playing the song, which helps him finally overcome his demons and joins the band onstage to play an inspiring guitar solo, much to the surprise and delight of everyone.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

The film has garnered a positive rating of 73% on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews, with an average score of 6.6/10.[1]

Soundtrack[edit]

Strange Fruit songs[edit]

The songs that the band Strange Fruit are known to perform in the film are:

  • "The Flame Still Burns"
  • "All Over the World"
  • "Dirty Town"
  • "Black Moon"
  • "Bird on a Wire"
  • "Scream Freedom"
  • "Dangerous Things"
  • "What Might Have Been"

Also, "Stealin'" is performed by Billy Connolly's character.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Still Crazy". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 6 June 2012. 

External links[edit]