What's Inside a 'Rock Star'
As the best movie to come out Hollywood this summer next to Rush Hour 2, Rock Star does a neat trick of giving the people what they want. If millions or even billions of people fantasize about being plucked out of their daily drudgeries to become rock stars, then Mark Wahlberg couldn't be cast better to encompass that impossible dream. With the character ambition of a Rocky, the fashion vanity of a Saturday Night Fever, and the fanatic excitement of a real heavy metal tour, director Stephen Herek (Mr. Holland's Opus) unwraps a smart confection of the American dream. Rock Star could be a companion piece with Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous for its sincerely executed attempts at recreating a musical tone and mood reflective of its time. The story's theme that 'the glamour of the rock 'n' roll high life isn't what it's cracked up to be,' is about as pedestrian as they come but it works like a charm in this well-crafted tour through the mid '80s heyday of heavy metal excess.
Mark Wahlberg proves he has acting prowess when he's giving something to do. Planet of the Apes will be a forgotten footnote compared with Wahlberg's triumph as Chris Cole, a Pennsylvania hard rock singer who goes from frontman for a Steel Dragon tribute band to actually replacing his singing idol Bobby Beers of the same band. Wahlberg has the right mix of lithe intensity and musical savvy to carry the film firmly on his shoulders and damn the torpedoes behind him.
The script (by John Stockwell, Breast Men) gives Wahlberg some well-used room for character development in the film's intoxicating first act. In Chris's loyalty, to his favorite band and their specific music, is a working class kid burying his true nature in something all too similar to his real potential. It's a modern urban folktale of how a regular kid got his big break but found that his new dreams grew beyond the confines of being a rock star.
Chris drives a Dodge Dart and works as a copy machine repairman by day, but at night he takes his hair out of its ponytail and rocks with the best of them as singer for a Steel Dragon tribute band called Blood Pollution.
Even the made-up names for the bands and the songs have the right attitude of badness to them. Sammy Hagar, Twiggy Ramirez, and Brian Vander Ark are some of the musicians who contributed songs. The inclusion of musician actors, like drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Zakk Wylde, as members of Steel Dragon gives the proto heavy metal band credibility. Many of the film's thrills happen during Steel Dragon concert scenes with our hero tapping his metal coil for everyone to see. Chris's debut concert with Steel Dragon gives a surprise jolt of catastrophe and tells us more about Chris's inner state of body and mind than a novel could provide.
Chris's girl-next-door girlfriend and manager Emily (Jennifer Aniston, Office Space) gets squeezed out of both duties when Chris starts touring with the band. Aniston does a lot with a little as an intelligent and loyal woman who has to choose her own life over being a full-time groupie. Aniston is well cast in the role and shows promise in her ability to handle larger roles.
Rock Star is a study in character revelation and sustained energy. It plays smack into the same audience nerve that the VH-1 series "Behind the Music" has mined to great effect. There's nostalgia for a past yet to come that's at the heart of these kinds of musical projects and confirms the transparent origins of songs and musical movements. The journey to being a rock star and the life that carries with it is a rarefied ideal.
Rock Star deconstructs a heavy metal band with accuracy and a sense of irreverent fun. For two hours you too can become a heavy metal rock star. I guarantee you'll feel just like Mark Wahlberg.