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Garage Days (R)
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Official Site
Director: Alex Proyas
Producers: Topher Dow, Alex Proyas
Written by: Alex Proyas, Dave Warner, Michael Udesky
Cast: Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda, Russell Dykstra, Brett Stiller, Chris Sadrinna, Andy Anderson, Marton Csokas, Yvette Duncan

Rating: out of 5


In Garage Days, the age-old truth is proven yet again: People fighting while wearing plush mascot suits will never cease to be funny. But it also proves something else: Sometimes directors just need to stick to what they’re good at.

Alex Proyas, the director of those dark, artful fantasy films The Crow and Dark City (and the upcoming I, Robot), finds himself completely off-base with Garage Days, a light-as-air Australian ensemble comedy about a group of 20-somethings whose greatest dream is to get their garage band off the ground with a stage appearance. He seems to be going for something akin to a warm, cuddly version of Trainspotting, but what he ends up with is something that looks like something trying to be a warm, cuddly version of Trainspotting. Garage Days has no vision of its own. It’s like Proyas made a movie that wants to be no more than what people expect out of rock comedies. Each character is defined by his or her role in the band, and acts accordingly. The ups they celebrate are perfectly balanced by the downs they suffer. And, as in any film about the underdog trying to make a mark in the world, Corporate Evil threatens their do-or-die independence at every turn.

It starts out promisingly though, if a tad hackneyed. Each of the band members is introduced in brief vignettes, ending with a funky little freeze and as it pans around them Matrix-style while zooming in and out, finally superimposing their band titles (“Lead Singer,” “Drummer,” etc.) over the image. These introductions are obvious bids for the film to distinguish itself, but somehow, they’re among the few moments in the film that don’t seem false. In these first few minutes, the thrill that the previews promised actually comes to pass. Each character seems interesting right away, and, as all good film students know, that’s a good thing.

And the characters are interesting, as far as the story will let them be. Problem is, that’s not very far. As Freddy, the band’s lead singer, Kick Gurry often bears the cross of straight man to the goings-on around him. It’s a thankless job, and his performance is never allowed to breathe enough to make Freddy as interesting as the film sees him. He’s surrounded by outsized characters, and so he tends to be a wallflower to the action. While this certainly makes the supporting characters a treat to watch, it saps the film of any moral or emotional center.

Maya Stange is given a little bit more space to play the calm center, and she does a pretty wonderful job. As Kate, the eventual love interest of Freddy, Stange grounds her scenes with a quiet bewildered acceptance of the confusion around her. Because of her performance, Kate comes across as the most three-dimensionally human character in the film, and the most likeable.

The other characters are, for the most part, entertaining but ultimately of the flat, stock variety. Tanya (Miranda), the bass player and Freddy’s girlfriend, is a tiny spitfire with a Louise Brooks bob who, in the film tradition of small, plucky women, won’t take shit off no one. Lead guitar player Joe (Stiller), who also happens to be Kate’s boyfriend and therefore competition for our hero Freddy’s affections, is the angsty sort, brooding with guitar in lap and secret lover (Duncan, hamming it up as goth chick extraordinaire) at his side. Lucy the drummer (Sadrinna), who sports a weird cross between Mohawk and Elvis pompadour, has but one mission in life: to find the ultimate high, which he seeks out by gauging each drug experience on a 10-point scale and writing it in his day planner. Each character has very distinct, very obvious traits to set him or her apart.

These distinctions are the problem. Everything in Garage Days is segmented—the characters, the storyline, everything. The scenes all have an episodic, arbitrary feel to them, and I often felt like I was being rushed along for no apparent reason. When the film sits still and stops fidgeting long enough to engage the audience, though, some great things can happen. One scene involves each character’s hallucinations after having accidentally taken hits of LSD. In another scene, two characters get into a fight that ends up in a very violent act of lovemaking. It’s moments like these that briefly give Garage Days the spark that isn’t there the rest of the time, because these scenes allow for something a little unexpected to happen. They expand perspective just enough to let the film stretch out and quit trying so hard.

—Cole Sowell

 

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

It’s worth a full-price ticket.

It’s worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



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