Garage Days

"Very Good"

Garage Days Review


To borrow a phrase from Tolstoy, all pop music success stories are the same; every pop music failure is different. That's the genius behind VH1's Behind the Music (Why spend time listening to a good album when you can spend an hour learning about Styx's hubris?), and it also explains why most movies about the glamour of hitting it big in rock and roll are usually so disappointing. Stuck with an obvious story, the results are either campy (Help!), earnestly boilerplate (Almost Famous), or pretentiously awful (The Doors). But director Alex Proyas has the right idea with Garage Days, his likeable comedy about a hopelessly mediocre Australian rock band that can't get a decent gig.

Still, every rock movie good or bad needs a young kid with good looks and ambition, which here takes the form of Freddy (Kick Gurry), a sandy-haired singer with a vendetta against gambling machines and tendency to lose to his girlfriend's vibrator in the sexual sweepstakes. Worse, the girlfriend happens to be Tanya (Pia Miranda), the bassist in his go-nowhere Sydney band, which is filled with neurotic lead guitarist Joe (Brett Stiller) and drummer Lucy (Chris Sadrinna), an amateur pharmacist whose concoctions tend to produce more vomit than highs. Add to this Bruno (Russell Dykstra), a manager with no schmoozing skills to speak of, and Proyas winds up having great fun bouncing his characters against one another, revealing both their ineptitude and their charms.

Proyas, whose previous films include more gothic fare like The Crow and Dark City, proves he can pull off comedy here, which he does mainly with special effects. Every character gets an internal monologue scene with shots of various things falling (water, laundry detergent, pills) at an impossibly slow pace, which stretches out the comic absurdity of their lives (Joe contemplates his "chick hands" and Lucy ponders a high that'll be a perfect ten). More directly, a scene where the band members accidentally go on an LSD trip at the worst possible time is a riotous mess of fire, demons, and Vaudeville performers.

It's all lighthearted, head-spinning fun - Garage Days looks like what Tim Burton would come up with if he'd directed The Commitments. But Proyas still has a plot to resolve, which makes the third act of Garage Days problematic: It's hard to work up the necessary empathy for these folks' human natures after we've spent the past hour having a good laugh at their foibles. When the tormented Joe attempts suicide just before (finally!) a gig, we're not quite sure how much we're supposed to care about his fate; worse, we'd actually prefer to see the rest of the band finally make it onstage instead. By the time the group does get in front of a massive crowd, we're well ahead of the movie's climactic punch line.

But give Garage Days credit: It doesn't pretend to be current or hip (much of the soundtrack is familiar '70s and '80s punk-pop), and it makes no great claims to being an incisive commentary on the music industry. "People call it an industry, but it's really a playpen," Freddy is told by big-shot band manager Shad Kern (Marton Csokas). That works well as the motto for Garage Days, which is smart enough to know that at heart rock and roll is a playpen itself: A joyous, diverting, and often childish thing.

The DVD includes a commentary by Proyas, deleted scenes, and outtakes.

Days of whine and roses.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 3rd October 2002

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: Mystery Clock Cinema, Australian Film Finance Corporation (AFFC)

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 43%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 30

IMDB: 5.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Freddy, as Kate, as Tanya, as Bruno, as Joe, as Lucy, as Kevin, as Shad Kern

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