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Time Out says
Tue Jun 16 2009For better or worse, it’s an extraordinary piece of British pop history: former RAF radar boffin Joe Meek installs himself above a bag shop (now a kebab house) on Holloway Road, where he crafts 1962’s landmark ‘Telstar’, a slice of 45rpm perfection which was the first British single to top the US charts. Meek’s career didn’t hit the heights for long, however, as musical fashion moved on while his amphetamine consumption, interest in the occult and troubled gay sexuality addled his decision-making process, setting the scene for a tragic finale. Overall, we’re indebted to Nick Moran’s film for putting the Joe Meek story, in all its gumption and strangeness, back in the spotlight, yet the utterly unruly trajectory of Meek’s personal and professional career makes it an awkward customer on celluloid.
The film is at its best when Con O’Neill’s full-on Meek has an ensemble to act against in recreating the larky glitter of Britain’s formative pop years. That’s partly thanks to jaunty support from James Corden and Ralf Little as musicians, and JJ Feild is spot-on as talent-free singing sensation Heinz Burt while plummy Kevin Spacey is a good sport as Meek’s backer, Major Banks. However, as the tone darkens and O’Neill’s left carrying the story on his own, it’s less compelling, exposing the fact that the script never really gets inside Meek’s head to allow us to experience the downward slide with him – instead of observing it with increasingly academic interest. Even if ‘Telstar’ can’t quite get the measure of its fascinating material, its pluck and ambition prove infectious enough to outweigh its flaws.
Author: Trevor Johnston