Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Directed by Michael Cuesta.
2011. Rated R, 95 minutes.
Ron Eldard
Jill Hennessy
Lois Smith
Catherine Wolf
Suzette Gunn

True to the movie’s title, Jimmy (Eldard) has been schlepping bags for the band Blue Oyster Cult ever since he got out of high school twenty years ago. We meet him on the day he’s been fired, desperately trying to convince them via cellphone to reconsider and take him on their next tour. Unsuccessful, he arrives back home in Queens to stay with the mother he hasn’t seen in quite some time. He runs into some old friends at a local bar and reminisces about old times. Eventually, long buried emotions and scars resurface. While Jimmy is an adult, it’s obvious he hasn’t really grown up. It’s clear in his constant need to pretend he’s a big shot. The standard lie he tells is he now manages Blue Oyster Cult and has even written and produced a few of their songs. That the band hasn’t been popular for a while makes it a story people willingly accept.

The other lie is he’s only in town for a day or so until he’s off to South America with the band. This makes Jimmy a hard guy to really like. What helps are the few moments of unbridled honesty that he musters. It is at these times we recognize him as passionate but insecure, filled with bluster about how road-hardened he is yet emotionally fragile. Years living on the fringes of the rock star lifestyle seems to have stunted his growth. It’s evident that his former classmates, ex-girlfriend Nikki (Hennessy) and her husband Randy (Cannavale), who used to give Jimmy a hard time, haven’t grown up that much, either. Even now, Randy insists on calling Jimmy by an unflattering nickname. Jimmy still carries a torch for Nikki and does a poor job hiding it. This manifests itself into the edge on which the rest of the movie teeters. Like his time with the band, this is one more thing he can’t quite let go. We know that he must, for his own sake, but fear he might be incapable. The situation is exacerbated because it appears the others won’t let it go, either.

By now, you should’ve gotten the idea that Roadie is a film built upon conversations. That means the acting has to be on point for this to work. There are no action or sex scenes to distract us from watching the people involved as opposed to just their bodies. Thankfully, all of the performers are excellent. In the lead role, Eldard delivers what is sure to be one of the most overlooked performances of 2011. It’s a role that demands him to ooze confusion and self-doubt. He presents us with a true man-child who is unfortunately staring blankly at a crossroads. No less effective are the two ladies in the cast: Lois Smith as Jimmy’s mom and Jill Hennessy as the one that got away. Smith is absolutely perfect. Hennessy’s Nikki mirrors Jimmy with her own tough exterior concealing a gooey center. She also has the added weight of being everyone’s focal point, which the actress bears well but the character does not. The showiest role belongs to Cannavale has Nikki’s loud-mouthed hubby. He’s a grade A jackass, the variety of which we all know at least one. He also gives us some comic relief, but the laughs are uneasy.

Like a lot of movies, one of the problems is the expectations set by its advertising. Once again, I have to refer to a DVD cover as the main culprit. This one exclaims ‘sex, drugs and rock-n-roll!’ and sets Roadie up as a rollicking musical drama. It is not anything of the sort. As already mentioned, there is no sex. There are a good deal of drugs, but the rock-n-roll consists of people playing really old records (yes, records) and passionately pontificating about them and the state of music. This drama made up of everyday people. It’s a character study which doesn’t really answer our most important questions. Instead, it leaves us to ponder them on our own.

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