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Nora Walker is told that her British fighter pilot husband is missing in action and presumed killed in World War II. On V.E. Day, Nora gives birth to their son, who she names Tommy. While Tommy is an adolescent, Nora marries Frank, a shifty camp counselor. Shortly thereafter, Tommy suffers an emotionally traumatic experience associated with his father and step-father, which, based on things told to him at that time, results in him becoming deaf, dumb and blind, a situation which several people exploit for their own pleasure. As Nora tries several things to bring Tommy out of his psychosomatic disabilities, Tommy, now a young man, happens upon pinball as a stimulus. Playing by intuition, Tommy becomes a pinball master, which in turn makes him, and by association Nora and Frank, rich and famous. Nora literally shatters Tommy to his awakening, which ultimately leads to both the family's rise and downfall as people initially try to emulate Tommy's path then rebel against it. Written by
A crazy but wonderful interpretation of a legend's music
I first came across Tommy when I saw the West End theatre production about 10 years ago, and I instantly fell in love with the music and the plot. However, at the time I was only 11 years old and couldn't really appreciate the many levels to Tommy. I did watch the film pretty soon after but was constantly comparing it to the show and to me it didn't even come close.
Now I'm a little older (and hopefully wiser), I have watched the film a lot in the past couple of years and all I can say is WOW! The music is fantastic, Pete Townshend is a genius, and the way he uses it to tell the story is awesome. When you listen to the original Who album a lot is left open to the imagination as regards plot, and I think its important to realise that Ken Russell's film version is merely one interpretation of the story told by the music.
Having not seen any of Russell's other work, it's impossible for me to say that this is typical of him. However, what I will say is that the imagery he uses in the film really does spark a lot of interest, for example the hypocrisy of organised religion and icon worship (particularly when Tommy causes Marlyin Monroe to crash to the floor after the rest of the church have been "brainwashed" by the priests).
A lot of people criticise the film for its cast, particularly Oliver Reed and Jack Nicholsons' debatable singing abilities. However I feel that this only adds to the sleaziness of their characters, especially Reed's - I think if he was note perfect it would be out of character. I think Ann Margret is fantastic as Nora - it's obvious that as Tommy's mother she feels torn between the love for her son and the love for fame and money, and she portrays that really well. As for Roger Daltrey, what a voice and what a body!!
I think it's important not to take the film too seriously though, like I said it's just one interpretation. I feel that "Tommy" as a whole - the music, words, story etc can only be fully appreciated if you listen to and watch as many versions as you can in order to make your own opinion of it.
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