“Submarine,” directed by Richard Ayoade and adapted by him from Joe Dunthorne’s novel, is a bittersweet British comedy in the deadpan vein of “Harold and Maude” and “Rushmore.” Like those two films, it features a shaggy-haired, never-smiling teenage protagonist (Craig Roberts) who loves himself unconditionally but bewilders most others—including his parents. Trying to woo an aloof female classmate, for instance, he mumbles such precocious, ahead-of-his-years things as “Here’s to us and a wonderful evening of lovemaking.” The film, which also stars Noah Taylor (“Flirting,” “Shine”), Sally Hawkins (“Happy-Go-Lucky”) and Paddy Considine (“Hot Fuzz”) opens Friday nationwide.
The soft-spoken Ayoade—who stars in the beloved British sitcom “The IT Crowd”—drew on Louis Malle, Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, all lovers of deadly serious, affected youths, in developing his oddball hero. At a press conference last week in New York City, he mentioned “Taxi Driver’s” Travis Bickle as the character’s main influence, as both speak in “an uninflected voice-over, seeing the least important thing [that’s happening on-screen]. He’s an unreliable narrator, linguistically idiosyncratic.”
Ben Stiller received the script for “Submarine” and was asked by the Weinstein Company to be an executive producer. “I said, ‘What does that mean? Do we have to do anything?’ and they said we just had to support [Ayoade]. I liked the script and liked Richard’s other work, so we took a chance with it.”
Casting Roberts in the lead role was, Stiller and Ayoade agree, practically a no-brainer. “He’s like a young old man,” Stiller said.
“I’m not a terribly social person, so I want to work with who I like,” said Ayoade. “I don’t think I’d be the natural director for ‘The Bon Jovi Story.’”
Ayoade, who debuted as feature film director for “Submarine,” is currently working on an adaptation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella “The Double: A Petersburg Poem.”
(full review in Friday’s edition)