Remember U2's slow-burner of a No. 1 hit "With or Without You"? This comedy, based on the true-ish story of the Irish band's near-fifth member, might as well be called "Without You." Memoirist Neil McCormick, these days a fine rock critic for U.K.'s Telegraph, doesn't have the larger wisdom of a Nick Hornby, but he does have a winning sense of self-deprecating humor---and a killer high-school tale about competing with another band that went on to global stardom. His 2003 book has been altered somewhat: transformed into the kind of crowd-pleaser that its adapting screenwriters, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, first got famous for, The Commitments.
But there are some keenly dorky moments, as when Neil's rhythm-guitarist younger brother (Sheehan) gets to jam with the budding icons. (They strain to think of a proper punk band to rip off and he blurts out, "Dire Straits"---the silence is a scarlet letter.) Varying degrees of coolness are very much the subject here, definitely relatable to anyone who's ever pushed their collar up, and as Neil (Barnes) and his also-rans strain for success, they're lost in the growing shadow of the always polite and solicitous Paul Hewson, a.k.a. Bono (McCann). The movie, too, is stalled in a puddle of nostalgia, especially when tensions arise between the sibs over opportunities denied. Amadeus it's not, but as light transitional music, the film---which has Pete Postlethwaite's final performance, as a swishy landlord---is tuneful enough.
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