Even on the best of days, the music industry is a cruel and fickle mistress. Svengali has a tinge of reality to it as it tells the standard tale of rock and roll dreams but much like those dreams, nothing really it happens and it never goes anywhere.
Dixie (Jonny Owen) is a small town guy with big dreams as he takes him and his best girl to London to make his rock and roll dreams come true and manage the next big band, which he thinks he’s found. However, it’s easier said than done with no money to speak of, ruthless A&R execs at every turn and anyone who he thought was a friend ready to turn on him at a moment’s notice. Pushed to his limits, will Dixie break a band and get the deal of his dreams, or will the cold lifestyle of the city cause him to lose everything that he holds dear.
It’s a nice enough little story, but not all that much actually happens and Svengali kind of shows why it has been on the shelf for almost three years getting dumped into the quiet months of January.
Director John Hardwick run through the narrative well enough, but writer and star Jonny Owen brings nothing new to the table. The story arc feels a little tired as we can see most of the beats of the film coming from a mile away and we never get a chance to get engaged in the overload of characters which range from idyllic, pathetic and downright rude. It’s a story we’ve seen a thousand times before and while no one involved genuinely does anything wrong, it never rises above the words on the page and feels very paint by numbers.
Star Jonny Owen is likable enough as our protagonist, but the laughs that are supposed to be there, really just aren’t. The rest of the cast is basically filled with unknowns (at least from a North American standpoint), aside from Martin Freeman (whose barely in it, with only two scenes) and some London music scene notables like Alan McGee who are all fine but get muddled up in this story about this small town guy hunting his dreams but ultimately learning what he really wanted was to be happy at home with his girlfriend.
It’s all fine, but sadly everything about Svengali was pretty forgettable. Fine for a lazy Sunday afternoon and it pops on the TV, but it isn’t a movie that you need to chase down and watch either.
As well as playing in theatres, Svengali is available via most VOD platforms as well.