Quadrophenia March 8, 2018
don’t want to be the same as everybody else. That’s why I’m a mod.” Such is said by Jimmy (Phil Daniels), a rebellious London teenager. Angry, apathetic, and living in a 1964 wherein alienation among working-class youths is prevalent, Johnny doesn’t realize that his defining himself as a mod actually makes him a lot like everyone else: Most people his age — people in their teens and early 20s —
consider themselves to be part of that hip subculture Diana Vreeland praised when Blowup (1966) came out back in the day. In Quadrophenia (1979), that above-mentioned statement proves to not hold nearly as much weight as Jimmy’d thought it might when he first said it. The truth is is that Jimmy is pleasure-obsessed, claustrophobic, antsy, and above all else, tired of The Man telling him he needs to get a job and eventually provide for himself. As such is his claim not so much a solidified statement as it is a way to make himself feel bigger: if he persuades himself that he isn’t like everyone else and that he’s part of an *important* movement, then he’ll be distracted from the various disappointments of his life.
The resulting movie is a definitive, late-period “angry young man” or “British New Wave” feature that compellingly captures the social unrest ubiquitous among youths in the ‘60s. All is made more evocative by the usage of The Who’s 1973 rock opera of the same name as the soundtrack; as it was with 1975’s Tommy (which was also aurally backed by the band) and 2013’s Metallica Through the Never, the trials and tribulations of our protagonist are turned vaguely heroic when soulful rock tunes assist his every move.
The film mostly consists of watching Jimmy go about life – we intimately catch a glimpse of his haughty friendships and his ineffectual attempts at romance (he most wants Leslie Ash). But such mundanities are turned semi-universal when instantaneously recognizable tracks like “The Real Me” are supplementing his head-scratching misadventures.
That being said, the movie’s prone to dragging, in part due to its too-long two-hour running time and in part due to its monotonous mopiness. I know it aims to be a naturalistic portrait of a frustrated young man, but when not much else besides angst is displayed, without room for comic relief or really any sort of break from the fire and fury of it all, things can get tiresome. But the movie still has moments of emotional clarity – I was shaken by the intensely cinematic, “Love Reign o’er Me”-assisted finale – and Daniels’s performance is visceral and physical and convincingly pissed. But as far as mod movies go, Quadrophenia’s one of the more depressive. B