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"It's All Gone Pete Tong"|
88 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Friday, April 29, 2005
Written & directed by Michael Dowse
Starring Paul Kaye, Mike Wilmot, Beatriz Batarda, Kate Magowan, Pete Tong, Barry Ashworth, Charlie Chester, Carl Cox, Steve Oram, Tiesto
Deaf DJ rises from life's ashes in half-sardonic, half-serious fictional biopic
A charismatically raucous and appropriately rhythmic fictional biopic about the drug-and-music-fueled career of superstar DJ Frankie Wilde, "It's All Gone Pete Tong" is both darkly mirthful and surprisingly emotive.
Opening with an energetic blitz of Wilde's decadent, party-hardy lifestyle (cocaine, booze, puking, orgies, stage-diving, magazine covers, Ibiza beach parties), the film follows his descent into a strung-out hell of wheels-falling-off-the-wagon self-pity after going stone deaf -- and thus losing his livelihood and his only real talent. But writer-director Michael Dowse then taps into the revitalizing potency of a metrical and metaphysical epiphany that brings Wilde (played with frazzled, hyperactive charisma by Paul Kaye) roaring back to prominence before he disappears without a trace at the height of his fame.
The title is Cockney rhyming slang for "it's all gone wrong," and Kaye -- with his scruffy hair, unevenly angular face and oh-so-British teeth -- rides his character's foolishness and vitality like a racecar with 100,000 hard miles on its tires. He just keeps pushing and pushing even though he knows in the back of his head something's going to blow. Wilde is so fried he's barely able to form a coherent sentence when he's living what he thinks is the good life.
Bad genetics and loud music conspire to bring him down to earth, and once his hearing is gone, he nose-dives toward rock bottom and fights his sometimes comically depicted demons. His coke habit is symbolized by a guy in a badger suit literally shoveling white powder in his face and beating him up.
When Wilde starts clawing his way out of this self-created abyss, learning to lip-read from a beautiful girl leads to his rediscovery of music purely through the physical manifestation of sound waves. He feels his way back to DJ-ing through thumping bass lines, using improvised aides like his bare feet propped up on subwoofers and a computer screen displaying oscillator-like feedback.
Writer-director Dowse layers "It's All Gone" in irreverent humor (it really takes the piss out of its hero, as the Brits would say), and savvy cinematography, editing and sound design provide a view of Wilde's ups and downs from both outside and inside his head, both before and after he goes deaf.
The film pulsates with a contagious, carefree, colorful rave-like beat, yet its darker sensibilities are always seeping in until Wilde rediscovers his gift for music and is not only revitalized, but also begins to evolve as an artist and grow up as a person. The wide-eyed exhilaration in Kaye's eyes as he begins mixing his first post-deafness demo (which becomes a celebrated album called "Hear No Evil") says it all. Dowse then uses this feeling as a jumping-off point to speculate on Wilde's fate, as do several of his contemporaries -- including real DJs making cameo appearances to add authenticity to the fiction -- in interviews woven into the movie.
The one thing "It's All Gone Pete Tong" lacks is a sense of what makes Frankie Wilde a legend and a celebrity among DJs. As in far too many biopics about artists, Dowse includes Wilde's music, but doesn't explore it. Because the film quite successfully passes itself off as non-fiction (I was fooled until I did some serious internet homework), this feels like a shortcoming. But it's certainly not enough to ruin the fun.