Prey for Rock and Roll
It is almost a right of passage to be in a garage or cover band. Almost all of us have had some passing dreams of rock and roll fame. For most of us these remain dreams, we move on to more ‘adult’ pursuits. Some, like the women presented in ‘Prey for Rock and Roll’ the making music becomes an all consuming passion. Some may actually make it big and achieve the Holy Grail, a record contract and the ability to make a real living form playing music. For most though music becomes the endless grind of cheap dives, smoky bars and walking endlessly around town sticking Xeroxed flyers under car windshield wipers. Based on the true live experience of writer Cheri Lovedog, this film looks at Jackie (Gina Gershon) a rock singer and guitarist just passing her fortieth birthday. As she looks back she wonders about her life, whether the straight life that provides health and dental insurance would have been the better course. The struggling band Clamdandy the typical stereotypical members. There are the lesbian lovers lead guitarist Faith (Lori Petty) and drummer Sally (Shelly Cole) joined with the trust fund baby bassist Tracy (Drea de Matteo). While Jackie earns a marginal living in a tattoo establishment, Faith teaches guitar to kids with more money and criticism than talent.
For the most part the story line is rather pedantic; we’ve all seen most of this before. The only difference is the cast is usually male. However, there are some moments that actually get to build a bit. For example, we learn that Jackie was sexually abused, so was Sally. Sally’s brother went to prison protecting her from their step-father. Tracy’s boyfriend has rape fantasies. You do the math, although the end of this story arc is obvious the execution is better than the average Lifetime flick. There is a forced feeling to the relationships presented here. What should have been deep feelings come across as a mere façade. With one notable exception the half dozen or so live performances do not give the impression that these are people that have devoted their lives to ‘the music’. There is a lack of energy in their playing. The one song that does stand out is ‘Every Six Minutes’, a rather brutal look at rape and what should become of the men that commit this crime. There is no light at the end of the tunnel for these wannbe rockers. Perhaps that is the point, that although everyone sees wasted lives and potential they have ultimately found what they want to do.
The bottom line is the cast is well conceived. Gina Gershon not only stars in the movie but served as the producer. She is so devoted to this film that she actual tours with a band she put together. Wearing more tattoos than the Illustrated Man, she drifts though the film on auto pilot. Okay, she had to deal with a worse script with Showgirls but this one comes awfully close. One reason Gershon has been in a few less than stellar films in her career is she is an actress willing to take a chance and she should be applauded for at least taking the risk. Lori Petty has a get sense of comedy that is completely ignored here. She seems to have fallen into almost cookie cutter roles as the tough lesbian. I did find Shelly Cole’s performance endearing. At least the script gave her something to work for. Most will remember her from her role on the Gilmore Girls. Here she shows she can handle more adult faire. De Matteo basically reprises the Sopranos role that put her on the map. Here we basically see the same chain smoking, constantly out of it character living the life she would have had it she didn’t hook up with a made man.
Considering the fact that music is at the core of this film Alex Steyermark was not a bad choice as director. Most of his career is in musical direction for such films as Malcolm X, Crooklyn and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This is, however, his freshman effort in the big chair. He has a basically good style and would do well with a more substantial script at his disposal. The lighting and set composition works to underscore the dismay lives the main characters have chosen. He attempts to impose a serious pacing to the film, overcoming the lack of direction the screen play presents. His use of a narrative style with a voice over by Gershon harkens back to some of the older noir films of decades past. Here it does give the sense of a woman that just turned forty not only looking back on her life but seeing what the future will bring. He does achieve a good balance between the expository material and the performances giving the music some context within the film. While his real talent lies in musical direction I do look forward to his next opus. This man has style, more than many of his contemporaries and will do well once there is more substance to work with.
The presentation of the DVD is quite good. Lion’s Gate is getting a reputation of paying attention to the details no matter what film is being presented. The video was originally shot in digital video and is therefore free of almost any defect. There was some notable blurring in very dark scenes where the actors resort to a sudden movement. The color palette is somewhat on the dark side but details spring out. Check out the lines of the many tattoos, you can actually make out what most are supposed to be. The audio was mastered a bit on the loud side. I had to pull down the gain on my receiver far lower than normal to obtain a comfortable listening level. Perhaps that is just an affectation of my years though. The only extra is a running commentary by the director. He seems to fall into the pitfall of many first timers, elated with the experience and not yet comfortable enough to be truly critical of his own work. They also hid the theatrical trailer as an Easter Egg, press the Lion’s Gate logo on the menu to view it. Overall there are worse ways to spend an evening. While this will never be on anyone’s top ten list it has it’s moments.