Rock Star Review
It's 1985, and one of the biggest metal acts on the planet is British band Steel Dragon. Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg) is a huge fan of theirs. He sings in Blood Pollution, a Steel Dragon tribute band. One day, fed up with his obsessive attempts to mimic Dragon's lead singer Bobby Beers (Jason Flemyng) just so, the rest of the band sack Chris. Emily (Jennifer Aniston), Chris's girlfriend and Blood Pollution's manager, leaves with him. Then comes the call: Bobby Beers is leaving Steel Dragon, and the band wants Chris to audition to be his replacement. It's every rock fan's dream come true, but Chris is soon to discover that this dream comes with a price attached.
Rock Star is, if you're not too demanding, watchable enough. But it's a superficial, soft-centred film that is sunk by miscastings on both sides of the camera. We've all seen fanboys like Chris, identifying to a fault with their heroes. However, Wahlberg is both too old and too worldly-wise to convince in the part. Worse still, his presence is a constant reminder of a far superior film on a not-dissimilar theme, namely Boogie Nights. Rock Star could be called Boogie Nights Lite.
A cheap shot maybe, and here's another: perhaps the director of 101 Dalmatians and Mr Holland's Opus would not be a first choice to direct a gritty exposé of the rock scene. I'm not asking for a Paul Verhoeven-like take on the subject matter, where everyone has an angle and is screwing each other in all senses of the word. But Rock Star is too bland and sanitised: the only decadence on display is a hint of an orgy and a scene where Chris seems to be strung out on drugs. (Okay, Almost Famous is equally open to the accusation of being sanitised, but that film was told from the viewpoint of a fifteen-year-old who may well have been shielded from the worst excesses.) This isn't helped by a script that spends an hour setting up its premise, leaving just half an hour or so for the whole fall/self-realisation/redemption plot arc.
Herek has no real control of the film's tone. Jason Flemyng's characterisation – he's only in two or three scenes – seems to belong to another movie entirely. Put bluntly, in the one scene where Chris meets Bobby, Flemyng seems to be sending the whole film up. Bobby, it turns out is gay (shock! horror!), which is one of the many more-than-passing resemblances Rock Star has to the story of Judas Priest. Oh, and if you can buy Jennifer Aniston as a rock chick, let's agree to differ.
On the plus side, the concert scenes look convincing – as they should, given the number of real-life rock musicians either in the cast or contributing songs to the soundtrack. Ueli Steiger's Scope (Super 35) photography is better than the film deserves. As for the music itself, well each to their own, but it's pretty much bog-standard 80s stadium rock to these ears.