Thursday, January 5, 2012

Michael Cuesta's ROADIE gives Ron Eldard a plum role (but not a lot otherwise for us)

TrustMovies has been a Ron Eldard fan ever since True Love, the actor's first foray into film. The guy was -- still is, 22 years later -- so delightfully boyish-but-trying-to-grow-up. Last year his sad, real performance helped humanize and lock us into Super 8, and now, opening at the beginning of our movie year, comes ROADIE, a new film from writer/
director Michael Cuesta, in which Mr. Eldard plays a character who has given up the idea of growth (except perhaps around his middle) almost entirely.

Having been a fan, as well, of Mr. Cuesta, shown at right, throughout his career (which includes L.I.E., Twelve and Holding, the more recent Tell Tale and some TV/cable work), I am sorry to report that Roadie left me cold. Aside from fine performances from his entire cast (that's pretty much a staple of Cuesta (and the work of many other good filmmakers), the movie is so heavy-handed and obvious that you keep waiting for some kind of shoe to drop -- even a bedroom slipper -- but nothing even slightly unexpected happens.

This is the story of  one, Jimmy Testagross (Eldard, above, in a down-on-his-luck moment), who has been a roadie for the band Blue Oyster Cult for a couple of decades but has just been let go. You get the definite sense that Jimmy wasn't all that good at his job in the best of times, and these days the times are not so hot. So he comes back to his home in Queens, NY, where mom (the always fine Lois Smith) spends her time between gardening and losing what's left of her fragile mind. He also makes a pit stop at a bar where -- coincidences abound -- his old high school nemesis Bobby (played by Bobby Cannavale, below, right) happens to be hanging out.

Bobby is now hitched to another ex-high schooler Nikki (Jill Hennessy, below, right) of whom both guys were enamored. She also happens to be in the bar, practicing for her gig as a singer/guitarist who'll be performing that very evening (she's not a bad singer, either.) Memories, jealousies, re-acquaintances ensue. All of which is so by-the-book and expected that you soon give up hoping for any surprise.

All this is very depressing because our "hero" is such a loser that, no matter how "real" Eldard makes him (and he makes him very real), we quickly tire of having to spend anymore time with this nincompoop who has clearly learned not one single thing in the 20 years since high school. In fact, the movie is full of sad, ugly people who can't/won't face up. This state of affairs also makes what passes for a happy (well, you might call it less-than-unhappy) ending all the more unbelievable.

Eldard (who is in every scene), Hennessy, Cannavale and Smith are all fine, as is David Margulies as a "concerned" neighbor (who gets the film's least believable scene but manages it with aplomb), and Cuesta captures a very small portion of the "outer borough" of Queens well enough. But the story is tired and tiring. Maybe you have to love Blue Oyster Cult to get it.

Roadie, from Magnet Releasing, opens this Friday, January 6, at the Cinema Village in New York City, after playing via VOD since December 2. Click here for any upcoming playdates.

2 comments:

Barb-isms said...

I have to disagree. This film drives home the essence of failure and the chance to begin again. We can all start over - that's the message. I saw this film twice and I love it to death! Ron Eldard, as with every character he has portrayed, breathes life into Jimmy Testagross and plays the role brilliantly. Jill Hennessey, Bobby Canavale, Lois Smith - all brilliant!

James van Maanen, said...

Yes, but does it drive home that essence believably, Barb? I guess it did for you, but it didn't for me, no matter how good those performances were. And, yes, they WERE damned good! But a really good movie must be more than a collection of fine performances. I think, anyway....