Thursday, June 14, 2012

"Rock Of Ages" - Movie Review


This week in my movie class, we saw the musical comedy, “Rock Of Ages”, starring Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand.


When a young woman arrives in Hollywood to pursue a singing career, can she succeed despite constant rejection, a failed romance and demeaning subsistence jobs?


In 1987, rock & roll fanatic Sherrie (Julianne Hough ) flees the confines of her Tulsa, Oklahoma residence for the chance to seek a singing career in Hollywood.  Upon being robbed the moment she sets foot in the new town, she immediately meets Drew (Diego Boneta), also an aspiring singer, who offers to help secure her a waitressing position in the same nightclub where he works as a barback.   Drew takes her to meet Dennis (Baldwin), owner of the legendary Bourbon Room on The Sunset Strip where many historic live rock albums have been recorded; Dennis is reluctant to hire Sherrie, but when his assistant Lonny (Brand) informs him that they’re short-staffed on this busy night, she wins the job. 

Meanwhile, The Mayor Of Los Angeles is running for re-election on the promise that he’ll clean up the city.  To this end, he enlists the aid of his ultra-conservative wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to take the lead on this project; after doing a bit of research, she realizes that the best place to start is on The Sunset Strip – and since The Bourbon Room is the main attraction there, closing its struggling doors once and for all becomes her main objective.  Discovering that the nightclub has been remiss in paying its taxes, she seeks to have the place shuttered.  In order to save his establishment, Dennis decides to book the rock band Arsenal, led by its famed and notoriously temperamental singer, Stacee Jaxx (Cruise). 

Jaxx performs with his band at a jam-packed Bourbon Room, but his sleazy manager (Paul Giamatti) makes off with  the evening’s take, leaving Dennis broke and still unable to pay his nightclub’s city taxes.  When Drew suspects Sherrie of having an affair with Jaxx, their budding romance effectively comes to a crashing halt, causing her to quit her job at The Bourbon Room and eventually being forced to take a job as a stripper.  With Drew and Sherrie finding disappointment in both their personal life and professional life, can reuniting somehow help them to find a way to ignite their careers on a more successful track? 


In the first scene of this movie, we see Sherrie on her bus ride into Hollywood where she and the other passengers (as well as the driver) spontaneously burst into song.  It was at this point that I immediately dropped out of the film, never to return again.  If you are a big fan of the TV show “Glee”, then you are likely a good candidate to enjoy “Rock Of Ages” – which is to say that I’ve never even seen a fraction of an episode of “Glee”, so that’s where I’m coming from.  While devotees of  the 1980’s music scene might appreciate the film on those merits, you have to keep in mind that while the arrangements might be true to the original recordings, the performances are not – in some cases, rather bland carbon copies.

Rock Of Ages” is based on the hit Broadway musical of the same name, which I must admit that I’ve never seen, despite living in New York City (theater is expensive).  As a result, I’m certainly in no position to compare the stage version to the film version – but that’s irrelevant since any movie needs to stand on its own, regardless if it’s an original screenplay or based on other material (e.g., a book or a play).  Will fans of the stage version like the movie version?  I suppose it depends on how married you are to the stage version and what you envisioned it might be like if made into a film.  I would think that just about any aficionado of the musical genre would like “Rock Of Ages” – but for me, I could’ve done without the Alec Baldwin/Russell Brand musically-enhanced love scene.

The corny nature of the script could be overlooked if stories told in a campy way are your thing.  One remotely positive thing about “Rock Of Ages” was Tom Cruise’s performance, as much as it deeply pains me to say so.  I’m given to understand that he did all of his own singing in this film and I must say that he pulls off the whole rock star prancing about rather convincingly.  That said, however, I did not find his portrayal of Stacee Jaxx to be enough to save this movie from being a non-stop sensory (and sensibility) assault.  I’m sure that “Rock Of Ages” will be a huge smash – but just as there are some hits that don’t resonate with everyone, be confident that this film will have no problem whatsoever finding its own very loyal (and rather sizable) audience. 

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