Quadrophenia (1979)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Coming-of-Age, Rock Musical, Teen Movie  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - UK  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Tommy and Quadrophenia were the two best-known narrative works Pete Townshend wrote for the Who, and while the oddball spiritual fantasy of Tommy lent itself well to the over-the-top visual imagination of Ken Russell, in many ways Quadrophenia got the stronger and more accurate translation for the screen. With the Who's music serving as a subtext rather than a dialogue track, Franc Roddam's interpretation of Quadrophenia comes off as a youth-centric kitchen sink drama, reveling in its Britishness and offering us a confused every-kid who wouldn't have been out of place in Saturday Night and Sunday Morning or The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner but for his scooter, his pills, and his Mod affectations. Phil Daniels is nothing short of superb as Jimmy, the painfully confused young Mod whose search for an identity becomes his undoing, and while few in the supporting cast are given the same opportunity to shine, nearly everyone fits seamlessly into place (with special kudos to Leslie Ash as the Mod dream girl Stephanie, and Ray Winstone as Jimmy's rocker cousin). Roddam's direction is solid and displays a genuine compassion for his characters, while the screenplay (by Roddam, Dave Humphries, and Martin Stellman) at once honors and clarifies the sometimes fractured story line of the Who's original album. An unusually well-crafted "angry young man" story, Quadrophenia is one of the smartest (and least condescending) youth-oriented dramas to emerge in the 1970s.