Rock of Ages
starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise
screenplay by Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb
directed by Adam Saankman
Based on the musical “Rock of Ages” also written by Chris D’Arienzo, the movie is about Sherrie, a sweet girl from Oklahoma who in 1987 travels to Los Angeles to find a fame and fortune - mostly fame, I guess. Her suitcase (which she quickly loses to a mugger) is packed with her favorite LP albums as she gets off the bus all starry eyed with the glamor of the big city, and the rock ‘n roll life happening at The Bourbon Room nightclub on Sunset Strip. She meets Drew, a promising musician and he quickly pens her a love song that could be a hit. Well, it was in fact a hit - “Waiting for a girl like you” (1981, Foreigner). I turned and said to my daughter who was watching it with me at the time, “That’s a pretty good tune to write in less than a day.” The soundtrack is a compilation of 1980s hits - all the songs of my youth. I could literally sing along to practically everything right off the top of my head.
Tom Cruise gives a memorable performance as Stacee Jaxx, an alcohol wasted sex symbol rocker star about to leave his band, Arsenal, and start a solo career. Stacee Jaxx is a parody mix of Steven Tyler, Axel Rose and David Lee Roth, any one of whom was enough to set social conservatives on fire. He is managed by Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), the epitome of sleazy managers. He’s the sort of manager The Sex Pistols sang about in “EMI” to exorcise their contempt.
My favorite character is the owner of The Bourbon Room, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin). He’s fat. He’s been in the alcohol business and on the fringe of rock ‘n roll a long time. He reminded me of Eric Burdon of The Animals who made a cameo as the owner of the Whiskey a Go-Go in The Doors (1991, starring Val Kilmer and Meg Ryan, directed by Oliver Stone). There is a very good twist to Dennis’s character. Watch and see.
Throughout the film The Bourbon Room is threatened with closure by conservative Christian protesters led by Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor’s ambitious wife. It all falls apart, though, when it is discovered that Mrs. Whitmore was a former Stacee Jaxx groupie who posed nude on an album cover.
To me it seems incredible and ridiculous that anyone should think of 1980s rock as“classic” and deliberately choose that time to set a musical. For me, when I was living it, the music was an escape from my surroundings more than anything. You could say the same about any time, of course. It all depends when you grew up.