Still Crazy is a 1998 British comedy film directed by Brian Gibson. The plot concerns 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.
|Directed by||Brian Gibson|
|Produced by||Amanda Marmot|
|Edited by||Peter Boyle|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
It was nominated for two Golden Globes in 1999.
The band Strange Fruit performs at the 1977 Wisbech Rock Festival. Hughie Case tells how, due to the pursuit of "fame, fortune and fornication" – and the drug overdose of their original singer, Keith Lovell – this is their last performance. After various issues, the band prematurely ends their performance, frustrated over competing egos and various members' lack of self-control.
Twenty years later, a stranger who turns out to be the son of the founder of The Wisbech Rock Festival recognises keyboardist Tony Costello and convinces him to reunite the band for a special anniversary of the event. Tony quickly tracks down Karen Knowles, the band's original runaround-girl. Initially reluctant, she is inspired to return to the band after finding memorabilia. She insists on being the band's manager, and Tony agrees. 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; and lead singer Ray Simms, who, after years of drug and alcohol abuse, is now completely sober. Though he claims to be working on a solo album, Simms has not released anything in almost ten years.
The band meets up at the Red Lion pub to discuss the reunion. Everyone expects Brian Lovell, the band's lead guitarist, to be there. Karen says she was unable to find him but learned he donated away all his royalties to charity; everyone assumes he is dead. Their roadie, Hughie, turns up during their first rehearsal to resume his original role. Ray insists on playing guitar but is convinced to concentrate on singing. They find a replacement for Brian in young Luke Shand, a talented guitarist who remains blissfully unaware of the band's internal tensions.
Following a warm up tour of Europe, Karen negotiates for the rights to their back catalogue. Their initial performances are poorly received. Les, Beano, and Hughie hold little hope for the band, believing Keith and Brian the main talent. Tony makes advances on Karen, but she resists due to her attachment to Brian. At one of their gigs, Ray's over-the-top ideas backfire, and Les and Ray walk off the stage. Following a confrontation with Les, Ray has a nervous breakdown, exacerbated by turning 50. Ray leaves the gig, buys drugs, and falls into a canal. Karen's daughter rescues him, and Ray's wife blames Karen for his troubles. Following an angry reaction from the townspeople over the volume levels, the band escape to their bus and flee the town.
Les and Ray make up, and Ray says he "received a positive message" from Brian's ghost. The bus breaks down, and Karen confronts the band about their lack of confidence. When the band meet a girl wearing a Strange Fruit tour T-shirt that belonged to her father, they take it as another positive omen. The next few shows go without incident and are well-received; the band becomes slightly more optimistic. Following a record deal, the band records a new song written and sung by Les, which Ray had never previously allowed. However, after watching a previously-taped drunken TV interview 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 that quotes "The Flame Still Burns", a tribute to Keith written by Brian. Hughie is then confronted by Karen, and reluctantly admits he knows Brian is alive. Karen and Tony find Brian in a psychiatric hospital. He explains he gave up his material possessions to sever himself from his previous life. When he agrees to rejoin the band, the others follow. However, at a pre-show press conference, hostile questions cause Brian to walk out. Everyone but Luke follows, and Luke chastises the journalists. Visibly shaken, Brian decides to back out of the show but gives his blessing.
Beano nearly misses the set when a stalker-groupie demands sex. The band starts their set with the same song with which they opened up the last Wisbech Festival. Though Ray's confidence is shaken, Tony saves him by playing "The Flame Still Burns". 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.
- Bill Nighy as Ray Simms
- Juliet Aubrey as Karen Knowles
- Billy Connolly as Hughie Case
- Stephen Rea as Tony Costello
- Jimmy Nail as Les Wickes
- Timothy Spall as David "Beano" Baggot
- Hans Matheson as Luke Shand
- Bruce Robinson as Brian Lovell
- Lee Williams as young Keith Lovell
- Rachael Stirling as Clare Knowles
- Helena Bergström as Astrid Simms
- Alphonsia Emmanuel as Camille
- Phil Daniels as Neil Gaydon
- Zoë Ball as Herself
- Frances Barber as Lady in Black
- Rupert Penry-Jones as young Ray
- Virginia Clay as young Karen
- Luke Garrett as young Hughie
- Gavin Kennedy as young Tony
- Alex Palmer as young Les
- Sean McKenzie as young "Beano"
- Matthew Finney as young Brian
The film 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. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers praised Brian Gibson's direction for crafting a "solid blend of humor and heart", the performances from the main cast (highlighting Nighy's portrayal of Ray), and the musical contributions from Mick Jones and Chris Difford for capturing '70s rock bombast, calling it a "prime piece of entertainment." Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the movie a B+ rating, saying "The ensemble acting is fun, generous, and gentle, and the music […] is as good as Strange Fruit ought to be, with classically grandiose '70s poetic sentiments. When the band hits its reunion climax, Still Crazy encourages frankly emotional tears. And why not: There’s nothing more comforting than the sight of grizzled old guys rocking on while the rest of us buy a ticket to feel young." Marc Savlov from The Austin Chronicle gave initial praise to the film's "wicked comic energy" found early on, but felt it devolves into "a deadly dull mishmash" it never gets out of, saying "The problem with Still Crazy isn't that it's overly earnest (which it is) or that it's too easy to make fun of (minimum effort required), it's that cast and crew alike seem primed for comedy in the film's first half, and then abruptly depart those Nigel Tufnel-ed plains in favor of some serious soul-searching halfway in." Joshua Klein of The A.V. Club found the film "overly dramatic and often dull" compared to This Is Spinal Tap and The Rutles, saying that if you look past its "cheap charm" you have a mishandled topic about middle-aged former rockers who lack sympathy for viewers to care about.
In 1999, Still Crazy received two nominations at the 56th Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Original Song for "The Flame Still Burns" by Chris Difford, Marti Frederiksen and Mick Jones, but lost both awards to Shakespeare in Love and "The Prayer" from Quest for Camelot respectively.
Strange Fruit songs
The songs that the band Strange Fruit 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.
- "Still Crazy". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
- "Still Crazy". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- Travers, Peter (22 January 1999). "Still Crazy". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (5 February 1999). "Still Crazy". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- Savlov, Marc (29 January 1999). "Still Crazy - Movie Review". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- Klein, Joshua (29 March 2002). "Still Crazy". The A.V. Club. The Onion. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- Higgins, Bill; Hontz, Jenny (16 December 1998). "'Truman,' Bard win noms". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
- Higgins, Bill (24 January 1999). "Globes 'In Love' and war". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved 2 June 2019.