Still Crazy

on January 22, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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   Strange Fruit is a British rock group with its future firmly behind it. It finally went out in a bang when an electrical storm atomized an open air concert 20 years ago.
   One of its members sets about putting the band back together for a reunion tour, but his plan is fraught with problems. One musician is dead, another presumed so and most of the rest are settled into staid, non-rock lives.
   But the lure of the lights, the screams, the memories, the music and the money is enough to get this motley crew back together, and the result is a brilliantly observed tale of rock and roll and riotous reality.
   Writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais ("The Commitments") have perfect pitch when it comes to capturing the way musicians talk and behave. The drummer (Timothy Spall) is crestfallen when he learns he never played at the Hollywood Bowl. "It was one of my most favorite memories," he laments.
   The cast is excellent, with a special nod to a couple of new faces. A scene in which the tall, skinny Bill Nighy as the lead singer goes to an AA meeting in Holland only to discover he's at Overeater's Anonymous is priceless. Another Brit stage veteran, Juliet Aubrey, is superb as the group's manager, who still carries a torch for a missing band member.
   Director Brian Gibson equals his bravura performance on the Tina Turner biopic "What's Love Got To Do With It." He manages to shoot lavish, large-scale concert footage while keeping it intimate.
   About the only thing wrong with this bitingly funny movie is its title. Almost anything would have been better, including something using the name of group or, even better, their signature tune, "The Flame Still Burns." Starring Stephen Rea, Billy Connolly and Jimmy Nail. Directed by Brian Gibson. Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais. Produced by Amanda Marmot. A Columbia release. Comedy. Rated R for language, sexuality and drug content. Running time: 94 min
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