Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Scott Rosenbaum's THE PERFECT AGE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL opens, as yet another musical icon bites the dust....

The ironically titled motion picture opening this week -- THE PERFECT AGE OF ROCK 'N' ROLL -- refers to that particular age, 27, at which so many of our icons in the music world, from Henricks and Joplin to Morrison and Cobain, drop dead. Last week we lost yet another one -- Amy Winehouse -- who departed at, yep, 27 years of age. In writer/director/
producer Scott Rosenbaum's new film, however, the icon -- a certain over-the-hill legend named Spyder -- has made it way past that witching year. As the movie begins, in fact, the old fart is being paid a visit by a crack young journalist (the always good Lukas Haas, below) in hopes or retrieving one of those "what-the-hell-happened?" stories, full of snoop and scoop. As our legendary performer proves something of a musical Sammy Glick, you might call this film, "What Makes Spyder Crawl?"

The answer to that question is among the several things that the movie gives us, as it backtracks to a time two decades previous, as Spyder (a sexy, Goth-i-fied Kevin Zegers, shown in photo at bottom) returns to his hometown to entice his best friend and former songwriter Eric (a sweetly soured Jason Ritter, shown two photos below) to take a road trip with him and his crew that will result in the finishing of a long-awaited third album by his group The Lost Souls. (Their first was a smash, the second one bombed.)

Luckily, Mr. Rosenbaum, shown at right, has not tried to include too much in his rock'n'roll movie. His ambitions are rather small, really: Just tell a story and give us some good music and a handful of relatively interesting, if a bit shop-worn, characters. But because he and his cast get so many details right, his film, for the most part, works surprisingly well. And while music is the engine that runs the thing, the movie comes complete with its own understated anti-drugs-and-alcohol message.

The time of the interview is now, and though 1971 is the year of Spyder's and The Lost Souls' great success, we hear about that only in bits and pieces. 1991 is when most of the story takes place, and we see how Spyder entices Eric into taking that road trip, along with his manager, Rose (Taryn Manning) and August (Peter Fonda), the old friend of Eric's late father, who was also a musician. New songs are composed, old ones sung, one romance begins as another rekindles. Things move along pleasantly, with the occasional argument and/or fight over what-you-did-to-me-back-then, until.... something happens.

Rosenbaum manages to capture a nice sense of melancholy, which hangs over much of the movie -- a legitimate feeling for films dealing with past and present time frames (or in this case: past, further past and present), as characters, as well as us viewers, grieve for opportunities missed and loves lost.

The performances are quite good, which shouldn't surprise anyone who has followed the careers of old-timers like Fonda (above, right), middle-timers like Kelly Lynch (below, left -- who plays his old flame) and Lauren Holly (above, left, as Eric's mom), and relative newcomers like the terrific Zegers (whose work includes Transamerica, Gardens of the Night, Fifty Dead Men Walking, The Stone Angel and Frozen, to name a few of his 65 credits) and Ritter (so varied and fine in Peter and Vandy, Good Dick and The Education of Charlie Banks). Ms Manning, below, left (from White Oleander, Hustle & Flow), an actress whose work I know less, acquits herself well, limning an interesting portrait of a woman at the cusp of middle age with one life behind her and a possible new one awaiting. Fonda is, as usual of late, aces, as is Ms Lynch. The two of them, with but a quick scene or two, make lovely emotional music together.

There's a wonderful scene somewhere in the middle of all this, shown below, in which Spyder and Eric pay a visit to a blues club and jam with a starry group of oldsters. This scene, as well as others that involve music, are done with enough love and appreciation to please aficionados, as well as those for whom music means simple enjoyment. Toward the finale we're treated to one of those standard "in flagrante delectable" scenes involving drugs and sex and oh-my-goodness that make us fear that the film will end in an all-too-typical and untoward melodramatic flourish of wayward, musical youth. But even here Mr. Rosenbaum surprises us, exhibiting a little class, along with a subtle, melancholic ending. And using Jeff Buckley's version of Dylan's I Shall Be Released over the end credits is, well, inspired.

Opening this Friday, August 5, The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll, from Red Hawk Films, can be seen in New York at the Village East Cinema. Click here to find other cities, dates and theaters-- which the web site promises will be coming soon (though it has been saying just that for days now. Get with it, webmaster!)

2 comments:

Tony Conley said...

Great review - a joy to read. Scott made a great movie about rock and roll (and much more), which is never easy. Always a pleasure to read something so well written, thanks!!

James van Maanen, said...

Thanks,Tony. I'll try to keep it up.