Rock Of Ages review
This is what happens at the beginning: Sherri gets on a Greyhound bound for Los Angeles, clutching her precious signed rock albums, dreaming Hollywood dreams. Then she starts singing and the entire bus sings along with her. Pretty standard movie musical scene. But I’m telling you this because even though you go in to a movie musical knowing it’s a movie musical, sometimes it still takes some getting used to. People burst into song EVERYWHERE. And in this case, since it’s an homage to the 80s, there’s the cheese and excess on top of all that.
If you are the kind of person who can’t deal with this, if you are the kind of person who often complains that “that is SO CHEESY”, I’m not sure you’ll be able to handle Rock Of Ages. Big hair, big moves, and over the top - that was the decade and that’s pretty much the entire show. Let’s just get that out of the way.
It certainly does have it moments. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand definitely have their moments. Sometimes those moments get a little tired but by the end of the movie, I still laughed whenever Baldwin appeared. We’ll add that to the plus column then. There’s also no shortage of enthusiasm either. Everyone participating came to participate; that earnestness is reflected in every performance and, though likely unintended, reflects the attitude of the time, before the cynicism of the last 20 years settled in…permanently (?)
It might be another discussion - how the audience should approach Rock Of Ages: can we separate the modern snark from our viewing experience? Because I feel like we might have to while watching this particular movie in order to fully appreciate the era it’s trying to represent. Which isn’t to say that Rock Of Ages doesn’t have flaws. There are MANY flaws and it could have been much better than it is now. But beyond these mistakes, which we will get to, you also have to give up a little in order to be able to enjoy it (if that is your objective when you go to see a movie). After all, Paul Giamatti SINGS. Tell yourself that before you walk into to the theatre: “I am about to watch Paul Giamatti sing”. It might make all the difference.
Was Footloose supposed to convince me of the “it”-ness of Julianne Hough? I never saw it and, judging from reaction, it didn’t. Is she relying on Rock Of Ages to do the same? If so, I’m not sure that’s working either. I mean she’s fine, but there certainly isn’t any sparkle, any quality so unforgettable it punches me in the face. I found that I couldn’t remember what she looked like from scene to scene. The other lead, Diego Boneta is slightly more memorable but still not charismatic enough for me to be convinced that he was the only person who could have played his part. It takes a while for their chemistry to get going and, frankly, I didn’t give a sh-t whether or not they ended up together. But I don’t blame them for it either.
Everything wrong with this movie comes down to direction. It is BADLY BADLY directed. And that’s all Adam Shankman. He is terrible. Never mind what he does to these two young actors, even the veterans can’t save themselves from his embarrassing lack of skill. Catherine Zeta-Jones looks like she’s being asked to telegraph every single high kick. The high kick is her go-to move here, along with the finger point. For some reason Shankman decided that would be the only way for her character to show that there’s a groupie living inside her bitch.
Mary J Blige looks awkward and stilted the entire time. And it’s in the simple details too. When her hand is on her hip it looks like it was “placed” there. When she flips her hair, you can almost hear Shankman saying to her “why don’t you flip your hair here” in the most obvious part of a song where one would flip their hair.
And then there’s Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is deliberate enough to begin with. You combine the Cruise Try with Shankman’s direction and what you get is Stacee Jax moving around with his shoulders pushed back way too much, his chest sticking out too hard, walking with a dipped limp for almost two hours. Tom Cruise looks like he’s actively acting every expression. And in his eyes you can almost see Shankman staring back at him behind the camera, telling him how to do it.
You know why I think this?
It’s the last number in the movie that gives it away. Through most of the movie, Stacee Jax is the infuriating badly behaved, tortured rock god. He’s incoherent, he hangs out with his monkey, he does all that shoulder and chest sh-t I just wrote about, and it’s so forced there’s nothing sexy about him.
At the very end of Rock Of Ages though, Stacee experiences an epiphany; he is changed. He takes the stage and …there it is. There’s Tom Cruise, the Movie Star. It’s the image you take away as you leave the theatre. And as we left the theatre, I said to Darren and Maria - he was SO hot in that final scene, right? You couldn’t take your eyes off him, right? Like, really, really, really hot. Like really, really compelling. Because he wasn’t doing the “Stacee Jax shoulder roll and limp” anymore. Because Shankman obviously told him “oh look Tom, in this scene, Stacee’s reborn and he’s been freed by love! So he can drop his ‘act’ now and be natural! Go for it!”
Up to that point I was ready to put it on Tom Cruise. But then Adam Shankman gave himself away. It’s like he’s a director who desperately wants to be an actor. And that desire gets in the way of this movie. He has played every character in his basement himself for I don’t know how many years. In his mind then, that’s the only way to do it. And that the only way he let his cast do it. It’s evident with almost every actor (with the exception of probably Giamatti who, let’s face it, is so talented this movie wasn’t exactly a stretch for him) and in every single scene. You can practically smell it.
If you go, let me know what you think.
Attached - Tom Cruise continuing to shoot Oblivion in New York.