Reviewed by GREG KING
It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock ‘n’ roll? The pitfalls of becoming a rock star and the struggle to survive the sex, drugs, madness and incredible pressures of the music industry have been explored on film numerous times before – from Barbra Streisand’s self-indulgent remake of the classic A Star Is Born through to Alan Parker’s brilliant The Commitments, Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do, to more recent outings like Mark Wahlberg in Rock Star, and the appalling Mariah Carey debut Glitter, etc.
Garage Days is an Australian take on a universal theme, but this film merely rehashes old and familiar riffs and fails to add anything particularly fresh or inspiring, or even interesting.
The film follows an aspiring young Sydney band as they hope to crack the big time in an era when the local live music scene is giving way to DJs and fabricated dance music and pubs are taken over by poker machines and the lure of easy money. The band itself is driven more by the dreams of stardom of their charismatic frontman Freddy (Kick Gurry, from Looking For Alibrandi, etc) rather than any real talent, but that doesn’t stop them trying to desperately gain the big break that will launch them onto the music scene.
Freddy hangs his hopes on the sleazy Shad Kerns (New Zealand actor Marton Csokas, from XXX, and the upcoming drama Rain, etc), supposedly the country’s top manager. But the band is also struggling with a number of personal issues that threaten to split them apart. Brooding guitarist Joe (newcomer Brett Stiller) has personal problems following the breakup with his girl friend Kate (Maya Stange), while Freddy also breaks up from his long time girl friend Tanya (elfin AFI award winner Pia Miranda), the band’s bass player, and realises that there may be some things in life more important than music.
Russell Dykstra gives an over the top performance as the band’s overly enthusiastic but incompetent manager, and at times resembles a down under version of British comic Alexei Sayles on speed.
Garage Days is ultimately an uneven and disappointing blend of drama, comedy and rock and roll that has been created by former musician turned writer Dave Warner (Cut, etc), and director Alex Proyas (The Crow, Dark City, etc), who used to direct music videos for bands like INXS, etc. Given their respective backgrounds, one would have expected the film to be full of insight, anecdotal touches, and an inescapable air of truth. But Garage Days is rather banal, and even lacks the wonderful irony and self-mocking approach to the music industry of the recent Josie And The Pussy Cats, or even the infectious energy and inspired lunacy of the Beatles’ debut film A Hard Days Night, etc.
Proyas suffuses the material with his usual flashy visual style, but there is not enough energy or invention here to sustain audience interest in the rather dull and familiar story or the rather unlikeable characters.