Its All Gone Peter Tong (UK/Canada, 2004, Michael Dowse) AKA Frankie’s Gone to Hollywood
It’s All Gone Peter Tong (director: Michael Dowse)
It’s All Gone Peter Tong doesn’t boast a particularly novel story arc, as it follows the life of a damaged man saved by the love of a good woman, but within that structure, the story works because of the clear affection that the camera has for the lead, as well as the incredibly infectious energy of said actor. Further, underlying the film is a warmth for the characters that gives the comedy its humanity.
At first intensely unlikeable, the central character of this tale, Frankie Wilde (Paul Kaye), a popular DJ in the burgeoning club scene, is a blowhard and self-involved narcissist whose jackassed-ness might fill you with dread in the film’s opening ten minutes. In fact, you would be excused for wondering if it will be possible to endure an entire film in the company of such a buffoon. However, writer/director Michael Dowse, whose previous feature was the terrific Fubar, which likewise boasts an initially off-putting lead character who is later redeemed (somewhat) by fending off a potentially devastating illness, develops a storyline about Wilde’s deteriorating health that humanizes the otherwise moronic Wilde. In this pivotal role, actor Paul Kaye is a small wonder. Kaye, who had a small part in the utterly forgettable Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London, does a terrific job of conveying his character’s evolution into something resembling humanity, without his development requiring unlikely leaps of faith in the audience. In It’s All Gone Peter Tong, where he gets to be at the center of nearly every scene, Kaye is damned near irresistible, even when he is at his most obnoxious.
Even given the unusual club scene setting, which is usually deployed as backdrop for a scene or two, then quickly discarded, but here is central to the story throughout, It’s All Gone Peter Tong is not a terribly subversive film. The story of Wilde’s rise, fall and rise is, on the surface, a terribly conventional, and the film makes little effort to dig into the sociology of the scene or the reality of the characters (other than Frankie) who inhabit this world. Even the fact that it is told in a mockumentary fashion does not by itself elevate this film from out of the realm of the ordinary. However, two things do distinguish It’s All Gone Peter Tong. One is the aforementioned performance of Kaye, and the other the surprisingly touching tone the film strikes in its second half. Even though it is a rather cliched story structure, it is in Frankie’s rise back up from the ashes, and his attempts to deal with his renewed fame, that gives the film its heart. While the jokes come quick and easy, given the subject matter (a deaf DJ! Heck, might as well be a blind swordsman), writer/director Dowse layers the comedy with pathos, as Kaye’s battles with drug addiction and self-involvement prove compelling, even when they are cut through with humour. Wilde’s battles with the Drug Badger being one of the film’s wackiest conceits, and provide some of the film’s most memorable moments. Of the supporting cast, Frankie’s sweaty American manager Max Haggar, played to overbearing and swart perfection by Mike Wilmot, as well as the gorgeous Beatriz Batarda, whose character of Penelope pretty much single-handedly guides Frankie to his personal redemption, are standouts.
Micheal Dowse is making quite the name for himself in the suddenly crowded mockumentary field, and if Its All Gone Peter Tong is any indication, he will continue to thrive with the competition.