“Sex and drugs and rock n’ roll.” In the music biz, it’s not just a phrase, it’s a lifestyle. From fiction to fantasy biopic, here is a flock of flicks about the fertile story landscape of rock.
The underlying premise of the indie gem Roadie may best be expressed thusly:
Rock ‘n roll stunts your growth.
Employed as the titular character for classic rock icons Blue Oyster Cult, Jimmy (Ron Eldard, in a touchingly understated performance) cherishes and largely lives in the past. Though fraught with its share of painful memories, it’s a personal history that inspires intensely felt emotions of a carefree youth. Much of this joy is generated by a deep, abiding love of an intoxicating siren sound, the beautiful noise of rock.
The only problem is, ya gotta grow up. Or not. Jimmy has decided to pursue a path based upon the latter. It is a personal resolution that has perpetuated an adolescent sensibility well into his 40s. And now maturation and responsibility may finally not merely be knocking at his door. They’re kicking the son-of-a-bitch down.
In the end, Roadie leaves us with the sense that maybe you can go home after all. And loved ones may actually be damn proud of you, and what you’ve done in your life. Even if such sentiment is never expressly spoken.
Danny Collins (2015)
Al Pacino is an aging –no, a full-blown aged pop/rock star struggling to reconnect with a grown son he left behind in a drug and booze-clouded haze.
Pacino is on his game as a guy in the twilight of his career, now freshly motivated by an inspirational letter from John Lennon that he never got as a young singer/songwriter. Not sayin’ he’s The Godfather (I & II), Serpico, or Scent of A Woman good, but still, pretty damn solid. After all, he’s Pacino…
Perhaps the coolest thing about “DC” is the soundtrack of original Lennon music featured throughout the film. Usually, the licensing fees make it prohibitive to feature any Beatles or solo work in a movie production. This leads one to consider the not-so-unreasonable notion that Al may have helped foot the bill for this essential ingredient. This amounts to a labor of love on behalf of this iconic Hollywood rebel.
Ordinary World (2016)
Ordinary World is a dramedy starring Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong as “Perry,” a just-turned middle-aged singer/guitarist on indefinite hiatus from his once-promising rock group. This cat is a fish flung far out of water as a domesticated husband, father, and feckless hardware store sales guy. When presented with the opportunity to celebrate his 40th birthday in grand style he does it up right in a posh New York City hotel suite, together with his ex-bandmates and a pack of party animals he’s never met. Shenanigans soon ensue.
The hard-driving original music Armstrong contributes here is fantastic, particularly the amped-up onslaught that kick-starts the story. Alas, the superlatives for this largely lukewarm effort pretty much start and end there.
Writer/Director Lee Kirk thrusts it completely upon Armstrong to carry his movie, as the brilliant musician performs in practically every single one of its scenes. Granted, Armstrong’s “Perry” is of decidedly docile demeanor, having ostensibly fallen into the mostly uneventful life he now leads. However, he proves to be just a little too passive in this role. To the point where Armstrong’s underplaying of his character never manages to amplify and fully engage.
Still, despite the earnestly honorable intentions, all involved wind up coming off as not much more than…yep…you guessed it: ordinary.
Nowhere Boy (2009)
John Lennon had a tough life as a kid. An absentee dad and a good-time girl mom who left him with her sister don’t exactly constitute the perfect childhood. This is the poetic license premise behind the passable slice-of-life biopic Nowhere Boy.
The lingering question at the end of this examination of Lennon’s formative years is “What if?” We’ll never know.
But then if things had been any different, may we have never known the greatest rock group in history?
Rocket Man (2019)
Taron Egerton does a jolly good job of bringing us pop/rock music legend Elton John in the fantasy-fueled biopic Rocketman. Still, the Golden Globe-garnering actor is not the star of this show.
That would be the iconic songs that John and lyricist Bernie Taupin created together. As ever, it’s about the music.
Green Room (2015)
The skinhead suspenser (I think I just invented a genre) Green Room showcases the beauty of the stunning American Pacific Northwest. It features some cool punk rock AND Creedence Clearwater Revival. And the mere presence of the great Patrick Stewart is more than enough to class up the joint.
There are confusing scene sequences, unlikely plot developments, and scads of interchangeable neo-Nazis proliferating throughout Green Room. But so what? There are certainly enough scares and acts of mayhem going on to spark a charge or two through most folks.
Come for the chaos. Stay for the scenery.
Fair use image of Rocketman promotional material