Svengali John Hardwick
Published Jan 13, 2016Behind every great band is a great manager.
That's one of the sentiments Welsh producer, actor and writer extraordinaire Jonny Owen tries to get across in his lighthearted, feel-good comedy Svengali, a film that shines light on a side of the music industry not often seen in movies.
Owen plays Dixie, a Britpop-loving Welshman from a small mining town who moves to London in the hopes of scoring a management and record deal with one of the city's hot up-and-coming bands (the terribly titled Premature Congratulations), and becoming the next Brian Epstein.
Along the way, Dixie meets a veritable who's who of the British music industry, including Creation Records' Alan McGee, the Libertines' Carl Barât and BBC Radio 1 presenter Huw Stephens. (On the acting front, The Hobbit's Martin Freeman, British comedy legend Matt Berry and small screen staple Michael Smiley all make appearances, although their short screen time seems more like a favour to give this labour of love a bit of star power, rather than advance the story along.)
Music nerds looking for a movie filled with factoids and in-jokes about the British music scene should probably look elsewhere, because Svengali is more focused on jokes about English people's perceptions of the Welsh (most of the people Dixie encounters along the way seem to think he's mentally disabled) and relationships in general. That's why it's kind of strange that, given Owen and co-star Vicky McClure's undeniable chemistry on-screen as boyfriend and girlfriend, the pair spend much of the movie apart from one another (there's a good romantic comedy hidden here, although it rarely rears its head).
Shortcomings aside, it's clear Owen has a lot emotionally invested in the film (in real life, the actor's teenage band was signed to Sanctuary Records for a short time in the early '90s, and it's hard not to read this movie as some sort of apology to a manager for his rabblerousing days as a young rocker), making this movie a pleasant, worthwhile watch for fans of his and anyone who has ever attempted to make it in the music industry.