There are three non-white characters in Rock Of Ages. Two of them – a bus driver and a prostitute – have less than two seconds of screentime. The third is a quasi-pimp, ultimately roping our innocent white girl into stripping for cash. None of the black characters have any musical influence in a film that purports time and again to be about rock n’ roll. But Rock Of Ages isn’t a film about the music of rock n’ roll. It’s about music as nothing, made for people who are nothing, fronted by beautiful people with nothing to say, people who don’t even have the backbone to embrace nothingness as an ideology.
Rock Of Ages begins following Sherrie (Julianne Hough) from small town America to the big bad dangerous world of Hollywood. There she meets Drew (Diego Gonzalez Boneta), a fellow dreamer hoping to get the big break that will see him emulate his idol; rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Jaxx himself is hurtling through a mid-life crisis brought about by years of substance abuse and yes men. Can ‘rock n’ roll’ help save them all?
Designed for people who would rather play Guitar Hero than an actual guitar, Rock Of Ages is as sanitised as a beer commercial and equally as artless. That it has the audacity to try and take a piss on the vapid nature of pop music (represented by a ‘boo-hiss boy band’) is almost as hysterical as its potshots of exploitation in the music industry. It’s hard to make a case against victimisation when your cameraman is repeatedly thrusting a lens up the vagina of your leading lady. As for the Brand/Baldwin homosexuality played for laughs… really? If the director was attempting to make it feel like the last 25 years never happened he’s done a bang up job.
There is no case to make for positives, only pieces less awful than those preceding them. In this respect the trio of Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti and Malin Akerman help ease the pain. Even the finest moment of the film – involving Jaxx and Akerman’s music journalist singing into each other’s arsesholes – is as memorable as a sub par Funny Or Die video. Cruise’s Jaxx as Jim Morrison by way of Frank TJ Mackay by way of Colonel Kurtz could have carried a film by himself. Instead we get Disney Brats and A-Listers recreating an afternoon of VH1.
The only way to tolerate the soulless vacuum of Rock Of Ages is to view the film as Sherrie’s mentally unstable perspective of the world. Think Mulholland Dr. with abhorrent power tunes. For the most part this tactic works surprisingly well, the main and side characters propensity to belt out song after song fitting neatly into the lead’s deranged point of view.
As the film reaches its inevitable wretched Journey moment you’ll find that no imagination on your part can prevent the option of drowning in your own vomit as an infinitely more desirable alternative.
Cock rock minus the rock. If you love music, truly love music, in any form Rock Of Ages will offend every fibre of your being. There are those that will try and persuade you it’s merely ‘mindless, harmless fun’ but don’t believe them for a second. If you tolerate this…