"“A two star film with a five star soundtrack...”"
Now before I get started on this particular review it may be worth noting that I am somewhat obsessed with all things Stone Roses. Without a doubt the Manchester four piece are my favourite band of all time, and having recently been on a wild trip to see them live no less than a few months ago, there is plenty for me to associate with in this movie. However, I fear my very own adventure to see the Roses perform is somewhat more exciting than that of our protagonists' experience in Mat Whitecross' Spike Island.
For best friends Tits (Elliott Tittensor) and Dodge (Nico Mirallegro) The Stone Roses are everything, not only inspiring their lifestyle choices, but to also start their own band; Shadow Caster, along more of their Roses obsessed friends. Getting into trouble at school, and generally something of a menace to society, the group of boys are determined to get there hands on tickets to see The Stone Roses, performing live in Spike Island just a matter of days away.
Dodge is also motivated in the hope that if he gets in, he'll be able to give frontman Ian Brown their demo tape, while Tits is more concerned with finally hooking up with long-term love interest Sally (Emilia Clarke), despite the fact Dodge has also had his eye on her for a while. In the meantime, Tits is struggling with matters on the home front, as his father (Steve Evets) is dying, while his brother (Matthew McNulty) seems averse to visit him in hospital.
If there is one thing to be said of Spike Island, is that it does manage to capture the brilliance of the Stone Roses, as we truly get a sense for their importance upon Manchester and general culture during the late 1980's and early '90s, in what is effectively one long, romantic love letter to the great band. If you're a fan of the Roses, regardless of what you make of this movie, it is difficult to leave too disappointed because at the very least Spike Island works as an apt homage to the band and their era-defining music, you can tell that both Whitecross and writer/star of the film Chris Coghill simply understand them.
However sadly the same can't be said for capturing actual Manchester from such a period, as you don't get a sense for what life was truly like at such a time, as issues appear in the dialogue and clothes worn for example, which just seem a little too contemporary. The biggest issue however comes in how drippy and mawkish this film becomes, far too conventional of the romantic comedy genre than it should be, as the romantic angle takes unnecessary precedence over the film. There's too much cringe-worthy, candy floss moments. As Ian Brown would say himself, it tastes of cherryade.
I simply can't see who the target audience for this will be. Yes, Stone Roses will enjoy certain aspects to this, but not enough to warrant seeing it on that basis alone. Effectively this is a coming of age tale seemingly aimed at a teenage audience, yet the drugs references and language used suggest otherwise. But will older audiences – those of the same generation as Tits and Dodge - truly enjoy this? It simply seems too glossy for such a crowd to connect with it, as this feels caught in between two crowds, unable to fully appeal to either.
Suppose the music does help, however, as it's well selected and implemented at the rights times, so at the very least you can sit there nodding your head, mouthing the words, while recounting and comparing your own Stone Roses experiences to those explored within the film. Suppose three stars does seem a fair critical rating then, as this is a two star film with a five star soundtrack.