- Formula One : Rosberg puts Mercedes on pole in Monaco
- our view : Our View: SGO fight against privatisation beggars belief
- civil service : Towards a ‘less wasteful’ public service
- Cyprus : Tax revenues fall 10 per cent in first quarter
- civil service reform : Furious PASYDY won’t play ball
- Cyprus : UN assures that dinner only a social event
- 2012 : Crossings and trade down significantly in 2012
- animal : Animal welfare group records ‘cruel’ slaughter
- Cyprus : World tourism chief says Cyprus open for business
- Cyprus : Ayia Napa murder trial hears from first prosecution witness
Film review: ROCK OF AGES ***
Rock is dead, or at least out of fashion. Only three of the UK’s top 100 best-selling songs of 2010 came from rock acts, and the US isn’t much better. Instead, the proverbial kids are grooving to the hammer beats of hip-hop, trance, dubstep and whatever else has taken over rock’s cachet as annoy-your-parents music. None of this appears in Rock of Ages, however, even granted that it’s taking place in the late 1980s; instead, as rock’n roll wanes, our hero Drew (doe-eyed Diego Boneta) reluctantly becomes the lead singer in a weedy boy-band, the ultimate pop-culture evil. The only way to make rock look cool is to contrast it with something uncool. Otherwise, nostalgia starts to curdle.
This is nostalgia, of course, stuffed with 80s ‘hair metal’ songs just as Mamma Mia! was stuffed with ABBA. I hated that film, but this is surprisingly palatable – maybe because the songs don’t always stop the show, often appearing as snippets that drive the plot forward. I had no idea what was coming (even though the film is based on a successful Broadway and West End musical), and was momentarily beguiled by the opening, in which our young heroine Sherrie (Julianne Hough) takes her seat on a bus that’s now leaving Oklahoma, settles down as if savouring the moment, then impulsively croons the opening lines from Night Ranger’s ‘Sister Christian’ to herself – “Sister Christian, oh the time has come…” – with the other passengers joining in one by one. Turns out her full name is Sherrie Christian, so the song is appropriate, which admittedly is pretty daft. But still.
The other thing is that everybody sings. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a politician’s wife (presumably based on Tipper Gore) who, we’re told, is so uptight she looks like she’s been “hibernating in Margaret Thatcher’s bumhole”. CZJ is on a mission to close down the Bourbon Club, a legendary LA rock venue, and she rallies the ladies of a church group against the “hateful music” played at the club – but then, moments later, she and the church-group ladies are rocking out to Pat Benatar’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’, cross-cut with CZJ’s hubby enjoying some illicit S&M spanking (which admittedly is also pretty daft; but still). Strippers sing, ordinary rock fans sing, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand (as the duo in charge of the Bourbon Club) sing – and of course Tom Cruise sings, as dissipated rock star Stacee Jaxx.
The songs keep coming, mostly centred around Drew and Sherrie; both want to make it in the rock biz, and of course they fall in love (alternating stanzas of ‘Waiting for a Girl Like You’ while preparing for their first big date). Unlike Mamma Mia!, which focused on middle-aged romance – trying to make the target audience feel good about itself – Rock of Ages deals in young love, making nostalgia more potent: memories of late-80s music become entwined with memories of late-80s youth. Rock of Ages makes the hare-brained likes of ‘We Built This City’ stand for lost innocence, which is why its structure is so intriguing.
If the film were just about Drew and Sherrie, it’d be hard-pressed to sustain its 123-minute running time (it already feels a bit overlong) – but in fact we leave the lovebirds for quite a long stretch in the middle, turning instead to Stacee Jaxx. Cruise initially seems to be doing a cameo, like he did in Tropic Thunder, but in fact Stacee is a main character – the superstar as addled recluse, “a manchild stuck in a rut”, alienated from the world, living in his head with only a baboon named HeyMan for company. The character seems out of place, dragging the movie down (it doesn’t help that Cruise’s singing voice is so-so) – but Stacee is the other side of the rock’n roll dream, a victim of the venal music industry (typified by slimy manager Paul Giamatti) that deals in exploitation, never in the music. ‘They’, the Giamattis of the world, are the ones who killed rock music, the film seems to be saying; they’re the ones who turned to boy-bands and poppy rubbish when the going got tough. This silly little karaoke movie actually taps into some pretty big emotions – not just memories of the happy past but also inchoate anger that the past is no more, that life (like music) has moved on. Even the sappy youngsters are almost touching in this context, gazing out at the lights of LA with stars in their eyes.
Rock of Ages looks good – DP Bojan Bazelli turns the strip club into a quiet riot of pinks and blues – but it’s just cheap nostalgia, of course. “Nobody puts Donkey [Kong] in the corner!” declares Brand, nailing two 80s classics in the same line. It works better than expected, but this retro-karaoke genre is still pretty noxious – though you have to admit people love it. Thirty years from now, I presume, they’ll be doing the same thing with Rihanna, Tinie Tempah and Black Eyed Peas, and today’s teenagers will sing along and cheer and tear up a little, and affirm how much better that music was to whatever the proverbial kids are listening to in 2042. Rock, probably.
DIRECTED BY Adam Shankman
STARRING Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise
US 2012 123 mins.