Rock Star (15)
Mark Wahlberg continues to go from strength to strength, but after playing sailors, soldiers and spacemen he has landed a role that genuinely fits him like a pair of spandex pants.
In Rock Star Wahlberg is Chris Cole, a dyed-in-the-wool rocker who provides lead vocals for Blood Pollution, Pennsylvania’s premiere tribute band to reigning superband Steel Dragon.
For Chris, rock music isn’t just a way of life; it’s a religion. And in his tribute band everything has to be played exactly right – and that’s exactly down to the costumes worn by Steel Dragon singer Bobby Beers, his stage moves, the guitar licks and everything else.
What Chris doesn’t expect is to be given the boot from his own band. The rest of the guys are fed up with his fastidious – okay, obsessive – ways. They want to try their own material and Chris is in the way.
Cast aside with only his Steel Dragon record collection to cling to, Chris is astounded when the ‘phone rings and Steel Dragon axeman Kirk Cuddy introduces himself. What’s more, he offers Chris the chance of a lifetime: replace the recently departed Bobby Beers and become the new frontman for his favourite band.
Pretty soon he’s adopted the whole rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. He’s trashing hotel rooms, teenagers are queuing up to sleep with him and there are more drugs than in the whole of Colombia. And he drives the Batmobile…
Based on a true incident, Rock Star is a supercool salute to Eighties stadium rock and a time when leather jackets, frills, long hair and baseball boots were de rigeur for teenagers all over America and Britain.
Yet it is also a warning signal. Chris, played with gusto by Wahlberg, begins his journey as a clone but metamorphoses into a doppelganger, employed by the rock gods he idolises to sing the songs, perform the moves and fall into line.
When he naively offers his own compositions to Cuddy (Dominic West in plummy-voiced reptilian form) he is dismissed like the hired hand he is. Steel Dragon cranks it up every night, adheres to a practised formula, and gives the fans what they want. Suddenly Chris realises the truth: all the gigs, groupies and wild parties can’t hide the fact that he is living within a gilded cage. And how this caged bird sings.
Along the road to fame, fortune and disillusion Chris has shed his girlfriend and manager, Emily (Jennifer Aniston as a well-bred rock chick) – the voice of reason, and Chris’s conscience.
Their scenes together are perhaps the weakest part of the film – cliched and stereotypical, and there only to provide a love interest. By far the most interesting element is Chris’s transformation from small-town boy to icon of rock, followed by his downfall.
John Stockwell’s script is a time capsule of modern rock ‘n’ roll, perfectly capturing the essence of a musical era that has all but gone. Similarly, director Stephen (101 Dalmatians) Herek gives his excellent cast (which also includes Timothy Spall as a know-all roadie, Jason Flemyng as Bobby Beers and Timothy Olyphant as Chris’s best pal) free rein to be all they can.
Whether heavy rock is your bag, or you prefer Sibelius, Rock Star is great fun. It says everything about the world of manufactured rock music but may yet provide a clarion call for a soft rock revival.