Top positive review
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A mesmerizing, uniquely fantastic film
on December 17, 2005
It's All Gone Pete Tong is really a rather extraordinary motion picture that has all the earmarks of a cult indie sensation. I guess we should cover a couple of things right off the bat, however. Who is Pete Tong, you ask? Well, he's a DJ, and he is in this movie - but only for a few moments. You see, this movie isn't about Pete Tong at all. It is actually about Frankie Wilde, a wildly successful DJ (and I mean DJ as in music-mixing genius and not "and that was the latest hit from so-and-so, and it's 52 degrees here at 5:00 on a busy traffic day" radio voice) who overcame the tragedy of deafness to make a huge and mysterious comeback. These movie fellows do a great job of making this mockumentary appear to be a real-life biopic, but Frankie Wilde and his incredible story are purely fictional. That fact doesn't really change anything, though, as this is still an inspirational film that will surely captivate you.
It's an oddly powerful story built around a less than likeable fellow who eventually wins you over with his intense suffering and his courageous efforts to finally put his life back on track. In his prime, Frankie Wilde is a celebrity who lives every bit of the high life - drowning his liver in alcohol, snorting bagful after bagful of cocaine, entertaining many a lady, and generally doing everything in a disconnected, vainglorious fashion. The movie pulls no punches in showing us Frankie at his most disgusting. Once he begins to lose his hearing, however, you can't help but feel sorry for him. He covers it up for as long as he possibly can, but - obviously - a man in his profession can't cover up such a devastating truth forever. Once he learns that he is indeed going completely deaf, his life hits rock bottom. He basically loses everything, including his wife and son along with his career. It's not a pretty sight at all, and he eventually holes himself up in his own pitifully constructed rubber room for months on end, basically surviving on drugs alone. His cocaine addiction is presented in a most forcible way - the monkey on his back is actually a disgusting large badger in a fairy tale outfit that isn't above smacking Frankie around when he threatens to cut back on the snorting. It sounds ridiculous, but the imagery works frighteningly well.
In time, Frankie decides to accept his disability and try to reenter the world; he gives up the drugs (but not the booze), finds someone to teach him the art of lip-reading, and eventually rediscovers his music. In essence, he develops the ability to feel and see music all around him and to channel it all into some righteous grooves that fuel the most improbable of comebacks.
This movie isn't just about Frankie's amazing story, however. It also seems to have something to say about the music industry and the callousness of greedy managers and promoters who care about nothing apart from the money their stars generate for them. Frankie was a star, but no one stuck around to help him through a tragedy that almost and probably should have resulted in his death. The ending of the film, which doesn't follow the path you would normally expect, strongly but quietly reinforces this critique of the shallowness of success.
The scenes of Frankie's emotional breakdown truly are dark and disturbing, and there is much in the film as a whole to justify its R rating. The film also has its funny moments, but this is a true dark comedy. I have to say that Paul Kaye is spectacular in the role of Frankie, lending a vitality and brute strength to an unforgettable character who will disgust you, amuse you, and eventually inspire you. I don't know how else to say it: It's All Gone Pete Tong is just a uniquely extraordinary film.