daniel cohen reviews the new rock ‘n’ roll drama starring Ron Eldard …
Plot: For more than 20 years, Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard) has been a roadie for Blue Oyster Cult. When the band fires him, Jimmy finds himself heading back home to Queens where he re-connects with his aging mother (Lois Smith), high school ex-girlfriend Nikki (Jill Hennessy), and old nemesis Randy (Bobby Cannavale), who’s now married to Nikki.
The biggest issue I have with this movie is that Blue Oyster Cult is referenced throughout the whole thing, yet we never hear “Don’t Fear The Reaper”!? What the hell! But I digress. Roadie’s bigger problem is that it’s paced slowly, although I can forgive that to some degree because of how strong the characters are.
Ron Eldard plays Jimmy, and he’s known one thing his whole life: being a roadie. So when he’s fired from the band after twenty plus years, it’s like ten punches to the gut. What I found fascinating is that it’s like a guy who’s been in prison for a number of years, and he’s thrown back into civilization, but he can’t adapt to society. This guy has probably been on buses and planes for over two decades, and now he’s back in the real world. But this also hurts the film, in that it spends too much time reminiscing.
There are so many long moments of Jimmy looking at his ancient record collection, or just staring at the pictures hanging around his house. This movie certainly takes it’s time. While I did enjoy watching this guy slowly morph back into a life that seems like eons ago, it was a little much. And when his ex-girlfriend Nikki comes into the picture, we go through this all over again as they discuss Jimmy’s music collection. Bottom-line: too much time spent on watching characters reminisce.
With the slow pacing, the film also amps up way too quickly, going from one extreme to the other. The first two-thirds of this movie are very quiet and slow, but it all of a sudden goes from three to eleven in about six seconds. You certainly get the feeling that the dynamite is going to go off at some point, especially as Jimmy spends a lot of time with the jackass from high school who gave him a hard time, and who has also married his ex-girlfriend, but it gets very dramatic way too fast.
The movie could have also used some more humor in the first half. It wants to have a more light-hearted atmosphere early on, but it doesn’t quite go there all the way, which sort of leaves it with a confusing tone. It did have its funny moments though. I love when Jimmy is being grilled by his mom’s neighbor. You know this person is going to gossip to the neighborhood about what so-and-so’s son’s been up too. I love Eldard’s acting here, which is the overly fake nice tone, but you know he’s thinking, ‘Oh, just leave me the hell alone.’
Speaking of Eldard, his performance really stands out. While I think the movie transitions too quickly, Eldard plays the reserved, soft spoken persona just right, but is equally as impressive when he goes into total breakdown mode. Hennessy (Nikki) and Cannavale (Randy) are also great. I think my favorite moment of reminiscing is when Jimmy and Nikki look at all of Jimmy’s records, and Jimmy has this quick flashback to the same room from when they were kids. It’s a beautiful looking scene that lasts about five seconds. There’s no dialogue, but it tells you everything you need to know about the relationship. But the best performance of the entire film was Lois Smith as Jimmy’s mother.
The relationship between Jimmy and his mother is the heart of the movie. She’s not exactly the sweet old lady type, and certainly gives Jimmy some tough love. Her speech to Jimmy towards the end of the film really floors you, and does make you want to shout out, ‘you tell him!’ She is by far the strongest character in the film, and Lois Smith delivers her dialogue with the perfect blend of love and toughness.
While I think this film has a lot of strong character moments, and it definitely kept me guessing as to how it would all end, I just wish the first half had more to offer. It really meanders along for too long before it finds its footing. And this is just a movie pet peeve of mine, but I don’t love plot elements where the main character makes up a lie about himself, and we know he’s lying, because then you are just waiting the whole time for that lie to get exposed. I did ultimately like how this movie wrapped up though, even if the last shot goes on for way too long. Seriously, it’s like a five minute reflection shot…we get it, end the movie.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10 (Slightly better than ‘Meh’)