It was fun while it lasted.
Michael Cuesta‘s ROADIE (2011) is a movie about a man who’s hopes and dreams end when he is fired from a 20-year long roadie job with the band Blue Oyster Cult (BOC) and has to return home to live with his elderly mother (Lois Smith). Lately, I’ve been in a bit of a habit of reviewing films that feature middle-aged adults going through unresolved situations where failures in coping and life actualization’s propelled them into a sort of psycho-social crisis. In this instance, Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard) is at a critical stage in his life, where creative and meaningful work is crucial for stability; however, his stable safety rug had been unfairly pulled from under him. What is worse, he had to move back in with his mother; and forced to lie to everyone that he is a successful manager of BOC, the band who ousted him. At this stage in a person’s life, career, work, and family are crucial. These are things to which Jimmy has no control.
He has to start, again, looking for new meaning and purpose in his life but were unsuccessful. He kept resulting in contacting his former employer throughout the film, demanding his job back and each time forced to deal with rejection. Back home in Forest Hills, Queens, he had to confront the demons of his past. One of them was meeting his high-school nemesis Randy (Bobby Cannavale), who still mocked Jimmy’s last name Testagross (as testicles), meeting his old high-school girlfriend Nikki (Jill Hennessy), now married to Randy, who’s only interest in Jimmy is to promote her own endeavors in becoming a professional musician.
Being on the road allowed Jimmy to escape life’s disappointments. His father destroyed his guitar; his ex-girlfriend began to date, then eventually marry his old bully, Randy. The sad thing about this is that Jimmy and Nikki were incredibly close growing up and it was hard to see her with someone who made his life hell. Randy is still a complete dick to Jimmy. Randy invited him to a party he gives to his wife before she performs to less than an abundant audience–her biggest was a crowd of about 40 people. After indulging in an evening filled with cocaine, alcohol, and M & M’s–the gathering Randy labels as “just like high-school,” and of course, the insults returned.
He wallowed in the street immediately after that. Drunk and disoriented–he was found the next day in his old, rusty car. After hobbling back to his mother’s house and vomiting in the toilet. He ranted again about how his father ruined his guitar and destroyed his dreams. His mother slapped him across the face and told him to “grow the fuck up!” Tutored, just as if he were a child, his mother had to remind him that his failures aren’t the fault of his father, mother–nor is it the fault of an ex-girlfriend, or high-school bully, but of his own.
Jimmy struggled with his maturity–he was never married, never had kids; throwing tantrums while on his cell phone when trying to get his old job back. Fighting again, to get away from the place and people who never seemed to change: his mother still made demands of him, like getting the laundry, keeping girls out of his room; and Nikki who exploits his feelings for her by obligating him to listen to her music and pass on her CD; and Randy, while it is evident that he still resented Jimmy, took advantage of every opportunity to belittle him.
Cuesta’s favorable depiction of his cast of flawed grown-ups who still behaved as if they were in high-school, emanated truth and realism that aren’t always favorably depicted on screen. Jimmy is forced to confront the bad decisions in his life, which turn out to be just what he needed. The film is teeming with nostalgia–his old neighborhood hadn’t changed much from when he left home, the old bar still had the same decorum and people. I admired that Cuesta did not turn the film into a pissing contest–he let each character reveal themselves for what they truly were–broken individuals who failed to live up to their life goals. Astounding performances by Cannavale, Hennessy and a phenomenal performance by Eldard, who made Jimmy real in every possible way.
The musical score is filled with songs from Jimmy’s past; Jethro Tull, The Ramones, The Counting Crowes (who recorded Jackson Browne’s “The Load-Out” for the film), and music from Blue Oyster Cult, which served as a bitter slap in the face for Jimmy–you can sense the pain of rejection each time a song from BOC played, and Jimmy would stare longingly into the distance, seemingly dreaming about a life’s party that he’s no longer allowed to attend.
Overall, Roadie is a great film about a man–who is still musically gifted and is still struggling to find his way–trying to make sense of the time he has wasted and is forced to come to terms with the man he eventually has to become.
Art and supplementary materials courtesy ©2011 of Magnolia Pictures. All rights are reserved.