Many films are made about the murky world of fame and success; how it shapes those who succeed and how the lifestyle irrevocably changes lives and friendships. Radio America charts those familiar waters with a story about two farm boys who gain fame after first appearing in a local concert. There’s potential here for a strong story about the journey these two go on and how their friendship is tested by it, but unfortunately the script just isn’t up to the task. They are never developed enough for us to care when the going starts to get really tough, and that critical flaw undermines the entire film.
I wanted to like Radio America. I’m a fan of films about the music industry, about large personalities rising to challenges and dramatically falling from grace. The problem is that this film holds back from giving us anything challenging or new to get invested in, and the central characters are too thinly drawn for us to connect with. Also, for a film about successful music the songs have to be stronger than this. It does take away something from a film when it is about successful musicians who can’t convince the audience of their worth. It’s a real shame as I think there’s a lot of promise across the board here; in particular actor Christopher Alice who always feels restricted by the material in the script and who never really gets to realise his potential.
There’s something praiseworthy to be said about the way Radio America depicts fame and fortune; it does take us through many believable issues and difficulties that might arise between the group. Everything comes from an emotional place and that’s great. What’s not so great is that all of these emotions are so weakly constructed that they are barely paid lip-service to and it feels like the writer is simply going through a ‘how to write a film’ checklist rather than developing his characters organically. Very quickly we learn to expect characters to act in a certain way not because of the careful development earlier on, but because of how cliched and familiar that behaviour is.
I don’t enjoy knocking this film as it has its heart in the right place with a story that is focused on the relationship between its leads despite the large scale events it places them in. Many films might be tempted to go off on tangents into the world of music, drugs and rock and roll, but here the film remembers that all we really should care about is the main characters and how they develop together over the course of the film. But considering that this film clearly knows that, I have to ask why didn’t we get given more relatable characters? Why weren’t more obstacles put in their way? Everything seems to go too easy for these guys and we lose the opportunity to see them tested and in turn fall for them and care about them. Instead we get a film here where everything is too superficially handled and we just don’t get wrapped up in it.
What is the film’s greatest strength? I thought Christopher Alice had the most going for him.
Its greatest weakness? The thinly written script.
Would I see it again? No, I’m not really drawn back for another viewing.
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