In case you missed the quirky, Wes Anderson-y coming-of-ager “Submarine” when it first received a limited release last year, it’s available on Netflix Streaming, and of course, on DVD and Blu-ray. Check out this little gem before seeing the film’s writer-director Richard Ayoade (that’s eye-oh-WA-day)Â and its producer Ben Stiller star together in “The Watch,” hitting theaters this Friday.
It would be easy to dismiss “Submarine” as yet another quirky, calculated coming-of-age comedy with an ironic, hipster vibe. And first-time writer-director Richard Ayoade probably worships Wes Anderson all over his bedroom walls because between his precise shots and overall deadpan attitude, he wears his influences on his sleeve. But “Submarine” is so bracingly inventive, wryly funny, understatedly sweet, and confidently directed with adolescent truth and verbal and visual wit. Think “Rushmore” in 1986, Wales with nods to “Harold and Maude.”
“We all travel underneath the radar without being detected,” says our unreliable narrator, self-aware 15-year-old Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) who has it tough at high school from being an outcast and on the homefront from being an only child. From afar, he crushes on Jordana Bevan, (Yasmin Paige), a cynical, poker-faced girl, and tries winning her over. Since she, too, is moderately unpopular, this makes a romance with Oliver more likely. For seven months, Oliver has noticed his uptight parents are no longer happy with one another, so he tries a little intervention to save Mum and Dad’s strained marriage.
Starring in the British sitcom “The IT Crowd,” Ayoade previously directed music videos, which then makes sense why there’s such a delicate, arty style on screen and a measured fluidity in the editing.Â “Submarine” never gets too snarky or gooey but finds a steady tone in the middle that makes it irresistible. Based on the prize-winning novel by Joe Dunthorne, Ayoade’s screenplay has sharp characterizations and manages to make familiar teenage anxieties ring true. The details are quite witty (Oliver knows his parents have stopped having sex based on the light dimmer in their bedroom).
Roberts is smart and precocious as Oliver without being annoyingly self-conscious or too arrogant, and as Jordana, Paige is such a bluntly amusing delight that she can get away with playing moody and anti-romantic. The whole cast matches in terms of fast, dry delivery, even down to the adult roles (!). Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins are wonderfully on point as Oliver’s sexless parents, and surprisingly aren’t shoved into the background but actually figure into the story. Paddy Considine hits his mark as a New Age windbag neighbor, Oliver’s mom’s former flame, but a little of him goes a long way.
Without relying on a lot of plot pushing, the cast and writer-director bring enough life to a coming-of-age story that actually feels fresher than most. Take a chance on “Submarine.”