Review: "It's All Gone Pete Tong"

With numerous awards and accolades under its belt - including a Best Canadian Feature nod at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival and its inclusion in Canada's Top Ten list of 2004 - It's All Gone Pete Tong has finally hit the theatres. Doo Doo Brown, a local DJ, insisted that I see this film - otherwise my title as "film scholar" would have to be reevaluated. Fair enough.

This movie is typically Canadian in its theme; but, stylistically and comedically, it finds a way to rise above the average Northern endeavor. I think this alien feel can be attributed to the film's British producers and the staggering talent of writer/director Michael Dowse. The pacing, unlike most Canadian films, is sharp and extremely directed. Pete Tong rarely meanders; when it does, it makes a point to jump back on track quickly. Unfortunately, the major theme in this film reeks of Canadian-ness. Castration and the "emasculated male" character define and dominate our cinema. When Doo Doo Brown insisted that this film was extremely unique, I got excited and slightly aroused. It's hard to locate a truly innovative and unique film. The settings are wonderful, the story is interesting, and the acting is marvelous; but, sadly, the theme is stale and should one day be put to sleep.

Frankie Wilde is a DJ on top of his game. He sells out shows, produces records and even has grandmothers whistling tunes from his various chart-topping mixes. It seems like nothing can go wrong...until the man loses his biggest asset. Suffering the effects of an "occupational hazard", Frankie begins hearing a sharp ringing sound in his ears. He is most likely suffering from a form of tinnitus, a hearing disorder that often strikes musicians in old age. But Frankie is not an old man. Far from it. He still lives that pure, Dionysian life of excess - snorting lines, drinking booze compulsively and driving the women into a mad, sexual fervor. He is not willing to accept his handicap, and places himself at greater risk by ignoring it altogether. Finally, Wilde goes completely deaf. He is abandoned by the music world and vanishes from the scene. Frankie is forced to search for meaning without music.

It is your classical Canadian story of a man who has been stripped of his dominating attribute and is immediately thrust into the shadows of emasculation. Nothing new here. Thankfully, strong performances by the two leads makes this one easy to sit through.

Frankie Wilde is played skillfully by Paul Kaye, a British comedian who possess the ability to express emotion through his eyeballs. Seriously. The guy is a talent. Another big selling point for me was the presence of Toronto-born actor/comedian Mike Wilmot. Mike is so very commanding when he's on stage, and his grating voice and penchant for raunch translates well in this film. He is a smart stand-up comic - which probably explains his success in the UK - and I feel that he played the role of Frankie's manager perfectly. Both characters have contrasting demeanors and the result lies in the construction of that time-honored good cop/bad cop relationship. Not original. Just fun to watch.

The biggest disappointment, I must admit, takes place near the end of the film. I don't really want to spoil the ending for you, so I'll allow the Internet Nerd in me to shine through and erect the following disclaimer:

SPOILER ALERT - The next paragraph underlines key plot points that might jeopardize a "clean viewing" by those who have not yet seen the film.

The ending is so happy it hurts my mind. It hurts my back and it makes my groin itch...painfully. If you think the ending of Pete Tong is anything but happy, you must immediately throw yourself off a cliff. Frankie rebounds from his handicap, produces an acclaimed record, sells-out his venue and gets the girl. Then he drops off the radar. He has realized what really matters in life. He has realized that "sucking showbiz cock" is no longer for him. He has discovered the beauty and happiness that a meaningful relationship produces. Boring. I wanted Frankie to re-enter the vortex of excess, in which he would commit all the mistakes he made that originally jeopardized his health. That would have been interesting.

Anyway, if you have an extra ten bucks lying around, go and check this one out - but I do mean "lying around". If it's a toss up between buying smokes and seeing this movie, buy the cigarettes and puff away thoughtfully while watching a more meaningful movie at home - I recommend the art of watching Manhattan and smoking twenty darts in the 96-minute timeframe. Films like Pete Tong play the same on your home theatre set-up; nothing is gained by watching Frankie snort a mound of coke the size of your head.

But if you do have that extra cash flow, consider strolling over to Carlton and watching this film. You'll have to see it now or later. The choice is yours. It's Canadian and its a good movie...and that makes it special enough.

Carlton Cinemas
20 Carlton St. (at Yonge St.), Toronto
tel. (416) 598-2309

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