In this movie, Lukas Haas plays "Clifton Hanger" which is the name the late Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Midland used when he checked into hotels. 'Peter Fonda' plays "August West" which is a character in the Grateful Dead song "Wharf Rat." See more »
Released in 2009 and directed by Scott D. Rosenbaum, "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll" is a rock drama about an ex-rock star, Spyder (Kevin Zegers), being interviewed twenty years after his prime, living as a withering recluse. The first album of his band, Lost Soulz, was a mega-hit, but their second album bombed because the songwriter, Eric (Jason Ritter), wasn't available and Spyder sucked as a songwriter. Desperate, Spyder travels to his hometown with his girlfriend in tow to reenlist Eric and compose their comeback album, which is complicated by the fact that they only have two weeks to do this; and they must do it while traveling across the country in an RV driven by a rock has-been (Peter Fonda). Rose is the manager, played by Taryn Manning. Lauren Holly, Kelly Lynch, Aimee Teegarden and Billy Dee Williams have small roles.
While the plot is lifted from 1983's "Eddie and the Cruisers," there's enough difference to set "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll" apart. Unfortunately, it's a thoroughly obscure flick, but wrongly so because it's arguably as good as more polished rock films, like 2000's "Rock Star" and 1991's "The Doors." Not to mention it's superior to 2010's "The Runaways" and 1979's "The Rose." One critic derided the movie as "a bunch of aimless, lifeless characters in a rambling story meandering across the country," which is true, because THAT is what the film is about. Besides, it's a journey worth traveling. The fact that the characters are "aimless," "lifeless" and "meandering" ties into the pitfalls intrinsic to the 'rock star' lifestyle. The very name of the band, Lost Soulz, tells you everything ya need to know. The movie's basically a warning (note the living shell of Spyder at merely 47 years of age); it's also so much more.
I was in a metal band for several years, playing all-original music (written mostly by me), and we opened for Tim Ripper Owens in the winter of '95 on one occasion. In less than a year he was a member of Judas Priest, touring the world. Of course, Ripper's story was the basis for the aforementioned "Rock Star." I'm sharing this to show that I know a little about the lifestyle and this film rings true. There are numerous gems to mine underneath the excesses of drugs, booze & sex. Take, for instance, when the driver of the RV, August West (Fonda), offensively sizes-up Rose; without skipping a beat she returns the favor and August recognizes the truth when he hears it. Rose emphasizes that she wouldn't be there if she "didn't love the music" and you know it's genuine; she's not just a "hot piece of axx," as Spyder writes her off in the interview.
Speaking of whom, Taryn Manning is effective as Rose in a challenging role, but in my opinion they needed someone curvier for the part. She's decent lookin', but her no-axx body is a far cry from a "hot piece of axx." Someone like Aimee Teegarden would've worked better, physically speaking.
The core of the story is that Spyder and Eric are best friends, and intense rivals, who need each other to work their magic: While Eric is the king of composition, it's frontman Spyder who makes his songs soar, which we convincingly observe at a few of their gigs on their road trip. The Lost Soulz songs "Turn Me On" and the Guns N' Roses-ish "Without You" provide all the evidence we need. Of course, these songs are fake in the sense that Lost Soulz doesn't exist, but they were composed for the movie by Andrew Hollander; and Kevin Zegers & Jason Ritter actually perform on them.
The only reason I don't give this movie a higher grade is because the set-up is shaky and can be confusing, possibly turning off first-time viewers rather than engaging them. If you can get past this, however, the film is full of riches on rock/metal and being a musician in general. Beyond the 'performances' of the Lost Soulz songs, there are a few highlights, like Spyder & Eric's confrontation in the rain and the blues bar sequence (featuring cameos by legends Sugar Blue, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger). Then there's the powerful climatic scene at Spyder's ritzy mansion with Jane's Addiction's "Three Days" playing in the background, which just so happens to rank with the all-time best cinematic scenes utilizing rock songs, like the close of 1998's "Buffalo '66" with Yes' incredible "Heart of the Sunrise." Let me close by saying that Kevin Zegers was a supreme choice to play Spyder. Ritter is also quite good.
The film runs 92 minutes and was shot in Westfield & Wrightstown, New Jersey; New York City; and Los Angeles.
COMMENTARY ON THE ENDING ***SPOILER ALERT***
Eric walks-in on Rose/Spyder having sex and acts like he's been totally betrayed and it's the end of the world. He quits the band and permanently severs ties with Spyder. But wasn't Rose Spyder's girl when the road trip started a mere month earlier? In other words, Eric basically stole her from Spyder in the first place, and very recently. Also, with all the drinking & drugs involved, wouldn't it be likely that Rose & Spyder would hook up again at some point, that is, succumb to temptation when it eventually presented itself?
While this might strike you as bad story-telling, I don't think so. Despite their close friendship, the movie shows that Eric had serious qualms about working with Spyder and even left the fame of a lucrative career several years earlier because he couldn't handle the draining love/hate dynamics thereof. When he catches Spyder and Rose going at it he basically says "I'm done" because, for him, the demanding rock 'n' roll lifestyle just wasn't worth the aggravation anymore. Without the necessary chemistry that Eric provides, Spyder devolves into an empty shell.
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