Rock of Ages (2012)
June 15, 2012 3 Comments
I was a rock child of the 80s. I used to go to gigs in my denim jacket covered in studs and patches, I grew my hair long (bordering on mullet style on one special occasion) and had posters of Guns n Roses, Europe, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard on my wall at home. Therefore I was always going to love this movie, no matter how bad it was. I suspect that most others will not.
Deep down I think everybody wants to be a rockstar; I know I do. I used to dream of performing in front of thousands of adoring fans and living the rock and roll life. Sadly though the closest that most of us will get to this is performing air guitar in front of a mirror at home or singing in the shower. That is of course unless you are Tom Cruise
Rock of Ages tells the story of Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a small town girl who meets Drew (Diego Bonetta), a city boy, born and raised in South Detroit no doubt, as she gets off the bus in Hollywood. Both are chasing fame in fortune in the city of lights. Drew gets Sherrie a bar job alongside him in the Bourbon Room, a famous music club on the strip run by aging rocker Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his sidekick, Lonny (Russell Brand). The club has run into financial trouble but a final gig by rock band ‘Arsenal’ should save the day, as long as their unreliable lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) takes to the stage.
Musicals have become more popular over the last few years. Kicked off by Josh Whedon with the iconic ‘Once More With Feeling’ episode of Buffy, we then had Chicago, Hairspray, Nine, Mamma Mia and perhaps the most influential of all Glee, which is clearly where Rock of Ages has taken most of its inspiration. The two young leads could have come straight from the Glee set. They act the same, dress the same and hell even sing the same songs. The film is also scattered with the infamous Glee mash ups, some of which are more successful than others.
The story (such as it is) is told via a mixture of dialogue and musical numbers, one of which opens the film. However it is quite a gentle affair and doesn’t really have the gravitas needed, therefore the first act feels a little flat. However once inside the Bourbon Room things start to heat up pretty quickly and the fun begins. Alec Baldwin as the club owner plays the role of the aging rocker well, however his opening scene where we see him jigging on bar singing a few lines of I Love Rock and Roll is quite a painful affair and clear signal for what is about to come. You have been warned.
As the supporting band finish up their array of Poison songs, everyone waits with baited breath for the arrival of Tom Cruise/Stacee Jaxx, and you know what when he hits the stage he is not that bad. He holds his notes ok, struts around with reasonable conviction and is clearly having a good time. The problems arise when he is off stage. Here the script lets him down and his slower paced numbers are cringingly awful. During his ‘rendition’ of 10cc’s “I Want To Know What Love Is’ he manages to do something that I never thought would be beaten and that is be worse that Pierce Brosnon in Mamma Mia, but boy does he manage it. I am not sure I laughed so much in years, there were genuine tears in my eyes. But I still loved it.
And you simply have to give him credit for trying. I bet Cruise the younger had the same dreams I did of being in a rockstar and hell if I had his money then I would make a film and try and live out that ambition as well. Good on him.
A sub-plot involving a local mayoral race provides some distraction and also allows Catherine Zeta-Jones to show everyone frankly how it should be done. That girl has some good singing chops, she is excellent throughout and puts the rest of the cast to shame vocally. Paul Giamatti channels Tom Duffy, the weasel-like campaign manager from the Ides Od March, to add the necessary sleaze and greasiness required to be Stacie Jaxx’s manager. Luckily for Giamatti (and I suspect all of us) he only has a couple of singing lines to struggle through. Russell Brand as Baldwin’s sidekick seems to once again just to be playing Russell Brand, but in this context it works and he does it well. One number between him and Baldwin will go down in history as one of the most cringe worthy moments in modern cinema.
The two young leads put in good solid performances bringing just the right amount of Gleeness to their roles as they both learn about the price of fame. Both end up in difficult situations, one has a moral problem to deal with whilst the other turns into an early version of Marky Mark. I wouldn’t be too surprised if they turn up in a future Glee episode or more likely the inevitable Coyote Ugly re-boot.
Rock of Ages is so much fun. At times it is truly awful, but you know what, strangely not in a bad way. It takes some balls to step up and make a film like this and all the cast should be applauded for fully committing to it. It is not meant to be serious and is in many ways a parody of itself. It played well to the audience that I saw it with and reminded me in many ways of the reception that Mamma Mia got. People were laughing, crying and cringing throughout, but they all had nothing but a good time.
I really enjoyed it and may even go back and watch it again, however I suspect I may be in the minority there.
A rocking ★★★★
Review by Will Malone