a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, CBGB (2013), starring Alan Rickman, Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha.
Per IMDb: “A look at the New York City punk-rock scene and the venerable nightclub, CBGB.”
Hilly Kristal (Rickman) had a few businesses and marriage that failed, mostly because of
his hedonistic lifestyle of thinking that money was secondary and happiness and doing good was enough. Doesn’t always work that way. He tried another “club,” this time in the Bowery of New York City. His closest friends, even his daughter, figured he’d fail, as he always had. He wanted this bar, again, in the Bowery of NYC, to be a place for country, blue grass and blues, so he renamed what was going to be called Hilly’s on the Bowery, CBGB to reflect his wishes for the establishment.
He hired an artist fella by the name of “Taxi” to run sound for his new club. He gave a junkie named “Idaho” a job cooking what looks like old toilet water, but they call it Hilly’s Chili. He enlists the help of some biker gangs to keep people off of his back, giving them free drinks in exchange for “protection,” whenever he needed it.
One day, a dude by the name of Terry Ork shows up saying he represents a band called Television and they want to audition to play the club. He doesn’t really dig it but he doesn’t really not. He gives them a gig. They become popular. Following that, a slew of punk icons, still in their early days, come rolling through. Acts like The Ramones, Blondie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, The Dead Boys, Talking Heads and Patti Smith, just to name a few. CBGB became the birthplace of American punk. Speaking of which, the film also talks about the phenomenon that was Punk Magazine. The mag’s origin, the people that worked there, promoted there and counted on there to get their fix of the NYC punk scene.
I don’t know how truthful most of this film is. It seems plausible but improbable most of the time. It is entertaining, though. It’s NYC in the 70s, what could be bad about that? The story is gritty and dingy, as is the scenery, as are the sets. I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about the punk scene, American, British, or otherwise, but I really enjoyed getting a (probably) convoluted account of the rise and somewhat fall (Dead Boys) of some of these punk pioneers. I also, admit that I enjoyed the soundtrack immensely. Bands that I normally wouldn’t care for, I enjoyed, even the Ramones, if you can believe that. It made me want to go and find the real backstories of these real life bands.
I liked the many cameos and supporting actors and actresses that had parts. Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome, Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop, Johnny Galecki as Ork and many others. Again, I’m not thinking this film was supposed to knock anyone’s socks off and it certainly didn’t. Total US theater gross for this film was $40,400. That’s not a typo, forty thousand, four hunderd. Including the Home Distribution tallies, it has made about $526,514. Still, small change for the movie industry with a large release.
I don’t know that the filmmakers knew how to handle the true history and made it a bit cheesy, where the source material should have been portrayed a bit richer. I am huge fan of Alan Rickman and this was one of the last films he made before his death a little over a year ago, January 14, 2016. I don’t know that I especially enjoyed his portrayal of Hilly Kristal but I liked that he gave it a shot.
Rotten Tomatoes rates the film at a dismal 8% Rotten and the Audience Score, while significantly better is only a 42%. IMDb has it at 6.6 stars out of 10. That’s actually not too bad. I saw the film on Netflix. I am rating it 3.75 stars. That last .75 is from the soundtrack alone. Not a great film but decent if you want a bit of historical fiction and some great music. Have you seen it? What did you think? What would you like to hear/read me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I opened CBGB because I thought country music was gonna become the next big thing. And it did… in Nashville.” – Hilly Kristal