Quadrophenia (1979)

quadrophenia poster 1979 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Interesting look at a different period from England

Feels like it needs to be punchier at points

Movie Info

Movie Name: Quadrophenia

Studio: The Who Films

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s):  May 14, 1979 (Cannes)/August 16, 1979 (UK)/November 2, 1979 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

quadrophenia phil daniels mod rocker ray winstone

A Mod sitting with a Rocker? No way!

Jimmy Cooper (Phil Daniels) is a Mod and proud of it.  He works a dead in job in a mailroom, lives with his parents, likes his drugs, and spends time riding around with his friends on scooters.  When Rockers and the Mods begin to fight more and more, Jimmy hopes it could be his chance to hook up with Steph (Leslie Ash).  Things don’t go as planned for Jimmy and his Mod dreams are becoming just dreams…and Jimmy’s life could come crashing down all around him.

Directed by Franc Roddam, Quadrophenia is an English drama.  The film takes its inspiration from The Who’s 1973 album.  The film was released to positive reviews, and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #624).

I saw Quadrophenia a number of years ago.  I was a big fan of Tommy, and when I learned that The Who were involved in another film, I sought out Quadrophenia.  While Tommy is brash and in your face with costumes, lights, and music, Quadrophenia is much more subdued and in many ways feels more personal.

quadrophenia phil daniels leslie ash

Yeah…I’m pretty bad ass…

Jimmy is a mess, but he has a lot of similarities to other “burnout” characters through time.  He has a bit of Benjamin Braddock (The Graduate) without the money to live luxuriously and he has a real lack of motivation to “better himself” (Rent from Trainspotting also comes to mind).  He seems himself as this great fighter for “Mod Life”, but he doesn’t seem to realize that he’s being left behind by his friends and others.  The character in ways reminds me a bit of Alex from A Clockwork Orange…everyone keeps telling him to grow up, but until he realizes it himself, he’s not going to.

The cast is good.  Phil Daniels has most of the weight of the film on him and the fact he isn’t intimidating and a bit of a “hanger-on” works for the character.  He’s a pipsqueak that thinks he’s found his notch…and he’s going all in.  A young Ray Winstone plays Daniels’ Rocker friend Kevin.  The movie also famously cast Sting as “Ace Face”, and Sting’s character is the catalyst to push Phil over the edge as someone just pretending to be someone he isn’t.

quadrophenia sting ace face phil daniels

Too cool for cats!

The movie has a real grungy look.  The London in the film isn’t the London of big booming movies and Brighton also isn’t the normal location of English films.  It gives the movie a means to anchor it in the past since Brighton and Jimmy’s area of London aren’t as “modern” as some of the other parts of the country.  It isn’t a pretty English countryside (though the white cliffs are quite picturesque).

Quadrophenia does drag a bit.  The movie feels like it was edgy at the time of its release, but it has lost some of the edge due to the fact that film has pushed harder and harder over the years.  Even in 1979, edgier films like Taxi Driver had already been released and movies glamorizing and demonizing drugs were quite prevalent when Quadrophenia was released and the movie could have benefited from hitting the idea with even more gusto.  A semi-novelization sequel to the album Quadrophenia was made called To Be Someone and the film is scheduled to be released in 2020.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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