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Tony gets fired from his job. He's not really sad about this because he prefers writing songs and playing the guitar. He meets the drummer Charlie and they decide to start a band, although Tony is afraid of playing in front of other people. He can't even play in front of Charlie. They find another guitarist, Wynn, who enjoys fishing if he's not playing the guitar. The final member of the band is Eric, the bass-player who is often unpredictable in his actions. They name the band Circus Monkey and want to get famous and rich. However, after some successful gigs, they begin to realize what all the big music and show business is about. Written by
Gerhard Windecker <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I waited over a year and a half to see "Bandwagon" -- and by the time I finished viewing it, I had: developed an even further appreciation for the talents of Kevin Corrigan and Doug MacMillan; discovered some wonderful new actors and a promising new director; and determined that North Carolina and its surrounding states were lovely, must-add places to my future vacation list. Most importantly of all, I left this movie thinking that I really, really wanted to be in a band!
"Bandwagon", in short, is about a band (the tag line even reads: Finally- A Movie About a Band). The band is made up of four twenty something guys who call themselves Circus Monkey. The film chronicles their climb from garages, to clubs, to touring (under the advising of a mysterious road manager), and finally to that big hookup with a record label and decision whether or not to "sell out." Now I've never been a member of a band myself, so I can't say how realistic the story is (though it certainly seems to be relatable and accurate). All I know is that this movie is a heck of a lot of fun!
"Bandwagon" marks the feature-film directorial debut of John Schultz (the original drummer for North Carolina band the Connells). You may recognize Schultz as the director of that Melissa Joan Hart mockery, "Drive Me Crazy". Please don't let that keep you from seeing this film, if so! Schultz' endearingly low-key style is quite evident here, and you don't have to be a teenager to enjoy it.
Even better than Schultz' directorial work are his script and characterizations. It's rare that you'll find such detailed and appealing personalities in one movie! Each member of Circus Monkey is likable and distinct. We have Tony Ridge, the singer-songwriter, who is as committed to his music as he is shy. Tony plays every song with his back turned to the audience (he even practices in a different section of the garage than his band mates, so that they don't see him!), and writes all those songs to some girl named Ann. He's played by Lee Holmes, who looks a little like Christian Slater with spiky blonde hair, and who has an intriguingly soft spoken voice that's very nice to listen to! Then there's Charlie Flagg, the long-haired, big-mouthed drummer who's pretty much into the band scene for the girls that come along with it. Charlie works in a record store, and his garage is where Circus Monkey gets their start. He's played by Matthew Hennessey, a newcomer who captures the mellow slacker essence of his character flawlessly. Thirdly, Eric Ellwood is Circus Monkey's bass player, a trouble making "time bomb"; he gets fired from his job after a fight with Charlie's cynical, whiny sister. Eric is played by Steve Parlavecchio, another big-star lookalike (he's a dead ringer for a short Brad Pitt) who quickly grew as appealing as his co-stars (despite some early scenes that hinted at annoyingness.). Finally, we have Wynn Knapp, the spacey drugged-out guitarist who loves to fish and has a mind "somewhere between the tangerine trees and the marmalade skies." Wynn is played by Kevin Corrigan, the only even somewhat-recognizable name in this cast. Corrigan, a gifted actor and one of my favorites, makes for the perfect Wynn. He's a master at that "lovably odd" thing (and he does a very respectable Southern accent), and this is one of my favorite performances from him!
The only other major character is road manager Linus Tate, who is brought to life by Connells member Doug MacMillan, in his first acting role. Linus, according to Wynn, brings bands to great and exciting peak levels, then mysteriously disappears until he emerges with a brand-new band. When said band becomes Circus Monkey, Linus goes fishing with Wynn, carries around a huge book (the scene where the band members finally find out what that book is is one of many great ones!), and mostly is just there for Circus Monkey ... letting them know when they're on "in five", and quietly guiding them. MacMillan's mellow, North Carolina drawl is as pleasant to listen to as his singing voice, and he gives a performance equivalent in likability to the others! Overall, the entire cast has a wonderful chemistry (particularly Corrigan and MacMillan), and even the minor characters (such as the front man for Circus Monkey's horror-show rival band Spittle, and Ann herself) are entertaining.
The movie takes place in Connells territory (Raleigh -- until Circus Monkey start touring, and then we see Nashville, Alabama, South Carolina, and other beautifully-shot Southern places). I doubt "Bandwagon" is actually autobiographical of the Connells' early days, but it's kind of fun to imagine that, since I'm a fan of their music. Like I said, it's easy for me to imagine ANY band relating to the experiences Circus Monkey go through ... that first failure of a show, the diners, the van, the first college station interview, being billed as Circle Monkey, that first jubilant time hearing your song on the radio, etc. etc.
Of course, a music movie wouldn't be much of a music movie without the music! The "Bandwagon" soundtrack is thoroughly enjoyable, and largely courtesy of musicians Bob and Greg Kendall. As Charlie says in the movie, their tunes go beyond straight pop, but aren't quite hard rock ... "ultrapop", he labels them. Think Paul Westerberg, or the Connells themselves.
I can never shut up about the films I love most. I love this film. Watch it yourself; "Bandwagon" is a blast!
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