DON’T STOP BELIEVING: ROCK OF AGES
</<span>I am not a musical lover. I gave in to a friend’s offer and saw Hair in London but it is a whole other story for me to put myself through one on the big screen. I did not like Moulin Rouge and was profoundly appaled by Mamma Mia which I found vulgar. I haven’t even see The Sound of Music. I guess it says it all. But when I heard that Tom Cruise will be singing some Bon Jovi in his upcoming flick, I whispered out loud “dreams do come true”. Only in my wildest fantasy one of my all-time favorite actor would be covering the band I reletentssly listen to. How was I then supposed to pass on a movie taking place in the 80’s filled with the tunes on constant rotation on my Ipod? I simply could not resist and ended up seeing it not once, or twice but three times.
The cinematic adaptation of the musical of the same name, Rock of Ages narrates the story of two teenagers trying to become rock idols in Los Angeles in the 80’s. A tale of romance, hope and desillusion expressed through hair bands’ hits, it has become a legendary production played in Broadway and in The West End. As it is always the case with cult-classics, redoing them is a dangerous exercise. Having not seen the stage production, I did not have any expectation towards the conservation of the original plot and characters’ stories. However, I was concerned about the esthetic and overall atmosphere of the film, fearing for it to be too cheesy, too cliché like the promotional poster which looked poorly engaging. The 80’s is a period that is very rarely well-represented in cinema and TV shows, directors and costumes designers always feeling the need to perpetuate the on-going image of a decade of bad fashion and hair styles. Alright, it was maybe the case, but does it have to always be exaggerated? A tempered depiction of the aesthetic of this time, not unbearable vocals performances, a good soundtrack and a decent storyline were the four things I wanted out of Rock of Ages. I got it all.
Before telling you the reasons why I could not fight the desire to see this film again, I have to address its negative points. My adoration for Tom Cruise and everything 80’s has not prevented me from acknowledging the flaws of Rock of Ages. As it is now a characteristic of today’s movies, it is way too long. There is a good thirty minutes that should have not made the final cut. At each of my viewing, I felt bored at the same moment and my friends told me they also experienced this lapse of interest too. The other thing that bothered was the acting of the two central protagonists, Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough. To be blunt, they were really bad. Their limited skills in this domain is less painful to witness as the movies goes by though as the great humoristic scenes and songs take the attention away from them. Nevertheless, I don’t necessarily believe they were miscast. They do come alive when they sing and there is a sweetness – or naivity - and an enthusiastic energy coming from them that really translates into the picture, making their characters likable.
I guess this remark could be applied to the movie in its ensemble. Rock of Ages only appears as being bad, perhaps because in this days and age, everything from the 80’s – with the exception of Back to the Future – is considered as such by definition. But, if you give it a chance to be good, if you allow yourself to not label it as cheesy and stupid from the very start, then you might accept it as a pleasant and highly entertaining film.
</<p class=”MsoNormal”>The greatest quality of Rock of Ages is that it does not take itself seriously. It is fair enough as it is supposed to be a comedy but what I mean is that instead of shooting itself in the foot by attempting to equal or challenge its onstage ancestor, it seems to have preferred to recognize its own inherent limitations and to settle to offer nothing but a good time to his spectators. This humble - and realistic –approach is palpable in all the picture’s elements. The friend with whom I watched it the first thing is a commercial director and was very critic towards Adam Shankman’s touch as it considered it as being none-existent. It is true that he did anything radical or remotely daring with his camera but at least, he did not give me a headache with his artsy pretention like Baz Lurhuman did with Moulin Rouge. I guess I could say that his directing was linear at the image of the plot. There too I was not shocked by the natural turn the events depicted in the movie took. Everything is expectable and expected but again, this is a comic romantic story, made in Hollywood so what we expect is basically what the writers - led by Justin Theroux - produced. I found out that they changed the ending though, making it an happy instead of rather dramatic one; this did not lessen my contentment with the movie’s finale. Furthermore, the humour used is quite heavy at times but not as much as I thought it would be. I expected an avalanche of “pee and poo” jokes but they were limited and actually made me laugh. The comic element is ubiquitous, reminding us constantly that despite the tragic failures the heroes are suffering from, there is still… hope. And this is precisely why Rock of Ages won me. If I am so positive about these points that I have reproached on so many occasions to other films it is because Rock of Ages inspired me. It is a simple told story telling us about simple life concepts which are actually pretty big deals. It talks about dreams, abandoning them, feeling we will never become the persons we want to be and then finding the strength to stand up again and fight for our passion and, yes, love. It sounds so unbelievably cheesy and yet, it is eternally heart-warming and spirit-lifting. And well, Rock of Ages did wonder on me more than any other movies about these subjects – which are legions – because it treated them through the songs and voices of the musicians and actors I love the most. I could not not hear, I could not not listen, I could not shut my eyes because this film was like – dare I say it – made for ME. </<p class=”MsoNormal”>I have already covered the plot issue so I will come back on the other three remarks I wrote earlier. Regarding the moderate 80’s look I was praying for, I was fulfilled. The costumes, accessories and most of all, hair styles do not look fake, as plastic as they were in Hot Tube Time Machine for example. Of course they ridicule it a bit, like with the scene in which Julianne Hough is hairspraying herself into oblivion but you still get to feel the love for the period, the celebration of this decade that is Rock of Ages. No one can deny that its creators and cast genuinely wanted to give it the rewards it deserves when listening to the soundtrack and witnessing the intense performances of Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones in particular. I am not fond of covers but I now find myself playing Cruise’ version of Foreigner I wanna know what love is instead of the original. They did a fantastic job picking up and arranging the songs. The tracks choice is absolutely amazing, fitting each and every scene perfectly. All the main artists who defined the music of this time are present: Journey, Pat Benatar, Poison, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Starship, REO Speedwagon and even some gems I – miss-I-know-all-about-the-music-of-the-80’s – had never heard before. Granted, they forgot to put some Mötley Crüe in the mix but it would have perhaps been too much for my little heart. I have said a few words about the cast’s singing but I feel the need to add this: they were much better than Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan in Mama Mia. They did not butchered the songs, made my ears bleed like these two did.
More over, Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones acted the hell out of their characters. They are both possessed and obviously having a lot of fun respectively incarnating a rock ‘n roll legend and the mayor of L.A’s wife scheming to shut him down. It is rightly so that the press has applauded the job Cruise did in Rock of Ages as he really, really, really went the extra mile to give life to Stacee Jaxx in all his glory. Being a long6time fan accustomed to him pushing boundaries, I could not help my jaw from dropping when I saw the first shot of him in the film. Or should I say, the first shot of his genital area tightened in a leather dominatrix jump suit. Although I found him sexy, I was surprised to not have spent the time drooling about how good-looking he is with long hair but rather empathizing with his character. He perhaps managed to turn into Stacee Jaxx so easily because he could understand, relate to his life, struggles and controversies. When he explains to the Rolling Stones magazine’s journalist (Malin Akerman) that he is a prisoner of rock ‘n roll, that the projections of the public on him, of who he is, prevent him from saving his soul and finding love, I thought that he was very much like talking about his existence. Maybe when he told her about how it is really like to be Stacee Jaxx, he was telling her how it is to be Tom Cruise.
Although it can’t be deny that Cruise stole the show, it is worth mentioning the quality of everybody else involvement. Brand provided great comic moments, especially in his duo with Alec Baldwin who himself was credible as a temple of rock decadence’s owner. Paul Giamatti was simply brilliant. I did not enjoy him in Cosmopolis because, well, I was bored out of my mind by the film, but I found him absolutely on spot in his depiction of a greedy manager looking for his next golden goose.Finally, I have of course to give a special credit to Hey Man, the insane pet-monkey of Stacee Jaxx who managed to outshine Cheeta. To sum it all up, go see Rock of Ages. Go have a good time, go sing and move at the sounds of your favourite 80’s anthems, go spot Sebastian Bach’s cameo from Skid Row in the film, go laugh and go have it ANY WAY YOU WANT IT THAT’S THE WAY YOU NEED IT.