The following is a list of things you’ll learn from watching Svengali:
One – Cassettes are no longer archaic relics but cool and retro
Two – “Don’t be a suit, be a dude” is an awesome saying (thanks Alan McGee)
And three – A Tesco’s plastic bag is more durable than a leather satchel as is proven by its longevity throughout the entire movie – not a tear in sight
It’s a world where phrases like “I would rather eat my own arse with a spoon” are thrown about as freely as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Where beer is the universal language and interrupting the boss is likely to get you set on fire. Director John Hardwick’s Svengali hits the comedy spot.
Jonny Owens is brilliant as music fanatic Dixie who ambitiously abandons his comfortable life in Wales for a hectic one in London in hopes of managing the music industry’s next big thing. Dixie thinks YouTube band Premature Congratulation – later dubbed The Prems – could be it and banks a lot on the discordant four. Along for the ride is loyal girlfriend Shell, played by Vicky McClure.
Hardwick’s dynamic collection of characters are wonderfully executed by his exceptional cast. When reality puts a dampener on Dixie’s plans – overdue rent, loan sharks on his tails and the Prems failure to immediately spin his dreams into cash – Owens’ deliverance of the ‘simpletons’ rollercoaster range of emotions is crisp.
Hardwick shuns the overblown, sensational route that is easy to take for a film about the music industry and opts for a more realistic feel. His choice is apt; you get the sense that Dixie’s story could happen to any average Joe with a dream
Adding to the film’s likability is Owens’ onscreen relationship with McClure. The two bounce off of one another creating a type of ordinary but unshakable romance that ties in with the films true-to-life theme.
Roger Evans is also an entertaining watch. Evans pulls off devil incarnate to the letter as Horsey, Dixie’s childhood friend turned industry shark, while, in the role of Alan McGee, McGee does himself justice, making effortlessly cool look…well…effortless.
Other character gems include Martin Freeman who gives an excellent performance as Don, the uptight Mod owner of a record shop, and groupie Hayley Norris, the Yoko Ono of the 21st century, poised to break up the band.
It’s a wild ride for the green-eyed Welsh boy with lots of peaks and crashing troughs that not only test his relationship but his commitment to the music. One can’t help but spend the entire film willing the boundless optimist on as he strives forward despite his uphill battle.
Hardwick keeps a nice pace throughout the entire movie, feeding a comical thread in and out of scenes so that there is a constant flow of hilarity. Expertly injecting one-liners for an extra hit of wit.
With its gritty realism Svengali churns out an understated type of brilliant. However, its believable yet unsatisfying end strikes the only bitter chord throughout the entire movie: but hey, as the saying goes, ‘that’s rock and roll’.
At the very least you’ll get a few kicks marveling at the strength and durability of Dixie’s cassette-toting Tesco bag, which survives his topsy-turvy journey alongside him, to the very end without a tear to show.