A newcomer to a Catholic prep high school falls in with a trio of outcast teenage girls who practice witchcraft and they all soon conjure up various spells and curses against those who even slightly anger them.
A day in the life of the employees of Empire Records. Except this is a day where everything comes to a head for a number of them facing personal crises - can they pull through together? And more importantly, can they keep their record store independent and not swallowed up by corporate greed? Written by
I do not regret the things I've done, but those I did not do.
Empire Records is directed by Allan Moyle and written by Carol Heikkinen. It stars, Anthony LaPaglia, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Johnny Whitworth, Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Rory Cochrane, Robin Tunney & Ethan Embry. Plot centre's on one day at independent record store Empire Records. With the store under imminent threat of a take over by a corporate chain, this is no ordinary day. For on the day that the store will be visited by a fading pop star, they are forced to confront their personal issues, and maybe, just maybe, learn something about the people they work with.
The film was a box office failure and was met with mostly negative reviews from the professional critics. Coming as it does from the director of critical/cult darling Pump Up the Volume, many were expecting a better and more hard edged picture than what they got. It also had to compete with certain 80's favourites brought to the cinematic world by John Hughes. While coming fast on the heels of the immensely popular Clerks (94) didn't help its cause either. Was it a case of bad timing? Is the film really just poor? And or, as mooted at the time: a career killer for those involved? Personally I think it's a film that needs revisiting now some 15 odd years after its release. In fact time has actually been kind to it and it now appears to have a good solid cult following. So unless you are judging it against the superior, record shop set, High Fidelity, you may find it's a film that's hard to dislike.
Some of the complaints against it are fair, with the main one about it not having fully developed characters being as true as day is a day. While calling it one long stitched together music video has some substance when taking it at face value. Yet what is there is worthy of a second glance, they are interesting characters, and their respective hang-ups and pressures are evident enough for us to hang our hats on; even if it's set up to be accompanied by still more hipster indie rock music. There's also been much guff written about the film as regards calling it a teen angst film. Yes it is, but have these reviewers forgotten about the adults in the movie? LaPaglia's store owner, the father figure, trying to remain cool as his charges come under threat. Or Mazar, needing a wake up call from her job/career ignorance; and the big one, the delightful Caulfield (splendid bit of casting) as fading pop singer Rex Manning, imposter? Indeed. It's all relative as to why Empire Records deserves more than a once only viewing. As for the music, it does indeed rock, with each track carefully selected to be at one with the scene it accompanies. My favourite? AC/DC-If You Want Blood, a ball busting track for a vibrant and kicking scene.
As for it being a career killing movie? The ladies of the piece have done rather well for themselves, Zellweger, Tunney and Tyler have made their marks in the industry, while Mazar has never been without work prior or post Empire Records. The guys haven't hit the heights of Zellweger and Tyler, which in the case of the excellent Rory Cochrane is not only a surprise, but also sad. Cochrane's Lucas is the key character and the glue in the middle of it all, always on hand with a dry quip or some philosophy, he's also supremely cool. Cochrane can be seen in serious mode leading 2006 thriller Right at Your Door. LaPaglia has always worked since 95, playing a number of different supporting characters, and Embry has appeared in big release's such as Vacancy and Eagle Eye. Caulfield has turned into the go to guy for TV shows and Whitworth, who quit acting for a while, pops up from time to time in minor roles such as in 3:10 To Yuma and The Rainmaker. So, not a career killer then.
Stick it to the Man, Baby, Empire Records is a vibrant and funny movie. 7.5/10
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