Thursday 8 August 2013

Empire Records (1995)

A haircutting scene!  All is not well.
So it's the middle of the nineties.  I've heard a few people opining recently that the nineties isn't enough of an era, in as much as one can't really dress nineties in the same way one can dress sixties, seventies or eighties and clearly belong in that one decade - but I'd venture that this film does indeed look identifiably nineties.  For one thing, characters have magnificent nineties hairdos of the style I envied at the time and envy still.  For another, it's set in a music store where people actually buy music on CDs, and this is counted as cool.  That era is now closed.

This is a film about some cool young people who work in the music store - and yes, as in 'Brick' (2005) I've found myself describing the cast of a film as 'young people' and realise I no longer count myself as youthful.  They're not cool cool, as their lives are troubled and complicated and their music, fashion and lifestyle choices tend to be a couple of steps toward the idiosyncratic, but I found them to be a stylish and enviable bunch.  They love their job, whether it's good for them or not, and they enjoy one another most of the time.  It's a film about what happens to people before an after the highpoint of life we know as 'being in a band', and it looks like a fine time, though I found myself at the end worrying for their continuing prospects.  They can't all wind up owning their own music store.

The store is visited by Rex Manning, that sexy, churlish Elvis Shatner of a man
It's a well-cast film, and two of its stars, Renée Zellweger and Liv Tyler, went on to prosper as an actor and an elf respectively.  I tend to do an embarrassingly poor job of recognising actresses, as they're prone to more variety in hair and makeup than their male equivalents so often appear unrecognisable, but these two are unmistakable and show the promise of their later careers.  I was surprised not to have seen any of the rest of the film's cast in other works, and particularly enjoyed Anthony LaPaglia as the store's excellently patient manager, and Rory Cochrane who managed to come across as both socially incapable and excellent company.

I feel I've come away with remarkably little to say about this film.  It's so much easier when a film is technically innovative or very terrible, but this is certainly neither.  There's only so far one can spin out 'this was good and I liked it', but this is and I did.

We may be in the twilight of the age of the compact disc, but here's a DVD for format nostalgists

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