Quadrophenia (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Rock Musical, Teen Movie  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - R
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While Tommy was the Who's best-known concept album (and probably their best-known album, period), their 1973 release Quadrophenia was a far stronger and more personal narrative work, and while group leader and principal songwriter Pete Townshend allowed Ken Russell to turn Tommy into an entertaining but overcooked bit of pop-art lunacy, the Who kept far tighter reigns on Quadrophenia, and the result (produced by the group and directed by Franc Roddam) was an intelligent and incisive bit of teen-centric kitchen-sink drama. Though Phil Daniels' performance as the young Mod Jimmy never quite makes him seem as if he has a split personality, he does manage to make the confusion and chaos of his violent mood swings vivid and believable, and he's easily several steps ahead of the typical "troubled youth" of the movies. Equally memorable are Ray Winstone as Jimmy's rocker cousin Kevin, Leslie Ash as ideal Mod girl Steph, and Sting, who says practically nothing but radiates waves of icy charisma as the Ace Face. Cinematographer Brian Tufano and production designer Simon Holland give the film a hard sheen that's at once gritty and superbly evocative, and director Roddam gives the film an emotional gravity that sets it apart from the usual run of juvie fare from either side of the Atlantic. In short, this is a rare example of a rock-oriented film that's compelling and effective even if you don't like the music.