This is like the movie Eddie and the Cruisers, if instead of the lead singer being a Bruce Springsteen sounding guy who disappears, he’s more of a Kurt Cobain type. The film is better than Eddie and the Cruisers, but not nearly as good as Almost Famous, Singles, or High Fidelity, which it will remind you of at various times. For those that were lucky enough to catch Begin Again a few weeks ago – you may be thinking a little of that movie as well.
It’s about a music critic (Toni Collette) that gets some tough love from her pot smoking editor (the always welcome Oliver Platt). Stax Magazine is moving in a new direction and will become an online publication only. He informs her that the last story she wrote was crap and only got two comments on the website (“One of which was spam.”). He wants her to do a piece about the guy she once dated and made famous. He was a rock star that people in town claim was better than Cobain. He disappeared, leaving his car by a huge waterfall. Since nobody has heard from him in 10 years, it’s a safe bet he killed himself. As The Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek used to say in interviews when asked if he thought Jim Morrison was alive, “He hasn’t taken any money out of The Doors account, so I doubt it.”
A few of the characters could’ve been so interesting, but the screenplay is written sloppy. For example, Collette has some amazing, subtle facial expressions. When she meets a rich guy (Thomas Hayden Church), the way she shows her lack of interest is perfect. She loves going to see bands at 2 a.m. He dislikes music and when pressed as to why, he explains, “It’s not that I hate music. I just can’t find a genre that doesn’t annoy me.”
They have another humorous conversation when he admits there is a Canadian artist he likes (I knew right where this joke was going, but it was still funny). Collette’s eyes widen as she rattles off “Neil Young? Leonard Cohen? Rufus Wainwright?”
He finally remembers the artist – Bryan Adams.
There are two big problems with these characters. They don’t seem very authentic. If we were seeing a female going through a mid-life crisis, that would’ve been more interesting. Instead, they basically tell us that she’s a groupie with a writing gig.
Nobody can do the sardonic smart-ass comments like Church, but we’ve seen him do this so often, and half of what he says and does isn’t the least bit believable.
Since he’s retired and has millions, he’s taking some filmmaking classes at a junior college. He decides to do a documentary on her search for her long lost boyfriend. Things have been popping up on the internet that claim to show him performing in small clubs, and the conspiracy folks think he may have faked his death.
She initially doesn’t want him to tag along, but after losing $1,000, she has no choice but to use him. And yes, it’s hard to have sympathy for any of the characters in this, aside from a struggling musician (Ryan Eggold) who was promised a story in her magazine.
Another surprising thing for me was the lack of music. As a music snob, this was disappointing. I loved Platt’s office. We see the usual gold records, and a framed set list. Her house is equally cool – a Belle and Sebastian poster and framed concert posters. How is it they didn’t get any of those hip Seattle bands to provide tunes?
The romance Collette gets involved in works. He’s a charming busker that, aside from having songs I don’t think she would’ve cared for, it’s a relationship we enjoy. The one Church gets involved in just seems forced and is rarely funny.
So many of the situations felt strained, and they’re rather predictable. When Church orders a rare animal for his activist/animal loving fiancé, you’ll know exactly how that’s going to play out. Again, unfunny. It makes you want to explain to screenwriters just what it means to be funny.
On the Cracked.com website recently, a guy did a humorous bit on how movies need to stop showing people going to the bathroom as if that’s humorous. He explained it was only funny once – in Dumb and Dumber.
Well, with the Church character, we thought he was funny in Sideways because we hadn’t seen an actor deliver lines like that before. And it wasn’t always just the humor written for his dumb character – sometimes it could just be a look of confusion he gives Paul Giamatti. In this movie, they wrote a lot of things for Church to do that just didn’t work. A few of them did, though. The way he was explaining his various filming techniques cracked me up.
Everyone is going to love the ending. I was slightly disappointed by it, because I think there could’ve been more that was said from a few of the characters, and it could’ve been profound.
It was more emotional to see what producer Joanne Woodward (who also played Doris in the movie) wrote on the screen for her late husband Paul Newman.
All that being said, watching Oliver Platt and Toni Collette act made this enjoyable enough.
It gets 2 ½ stars out of 5.