Jam packed with memorable tunes and brimming with seventies nostalgia comes this new addition to the musical biopic genre, CBGB (or Country BlueGrass and Blues). Writer and Director Randall Miller tells the story of now defunct music venue and its unorthodox founder, Hilly Kristal, from its lowly beginnings as a little known hangout for rock musicians and beatniks to the infamous birthplace of American punk and New Wave bands such as The Ramones, Blondie and the Patti Smith Group to name but a few.
Following hot on the heels of 2009 documentary, Burning Down the House, it remains to be seen whether CBGB can instil the same level of enthusiasm when the real life middle aged rockers are replaced with fresh faced young Hollywood miming their way through celebrated hits.
The trailer hints at the grungy reality of CBGB’s early days (the club’s toilets were notorious) albeit with that undeniably whiff of Hollywood varnish. Sure there’s cockroaches and bar brawls a plenty – but don’t expect anything less than polished pop hits you can sing along to.
Miller leans on his Bottle Shock star Alan Rickman once again to provide some patriarchal gravitas to the plot in what looks like a fairly large cast made up mostly of ‘up and comers’ and established bit parters. Given Rickman can play the cantankerous old codger in his sleep, it will be interesting to see how much depth he can bring to real life character Kristal who passed away not long after the club’s closure in 2006.
From the trailer, it looks as though CBGB is reaching out to as wide an audience as possible. No doubt the Mums and Dads generation will eagerly lap up the chance to take a trip down memory lane. Older kids, on the other hand, will be drawn to the likes of Rupert Grint, Justin Bartha and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters fame (who still looks too young to be playing Iggy Pop even in his somewhat less wiry heyday).
With all things seventies and eighties enjoying a bit of a revival, it’s good to see some love and attention towards those behind the rise of what are now household names as opposed to the more conventional rags to riches tale of singular artists – a clever move that will likely attract fans of the music as well as those curious about the club’s colourful history.
It’s little wonder the bygone days of eccentric style, prolific artists and underground movements appeal to the mainstream cinema goer today – ten or twenty years from now, one would suspect there will be little call for such films charting the rise of Simon Cowell’s brand of plasticated pop.