The first thing you'll learn from this film, if you weren't already aware of it, is that Blue Oyster Cult has never not been a band. Members came and went but the two main men, Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom, have kicked around since the group's late-1960s Long Island inception. This makes them and their music the perfect cultural backdrop for the latest movie from Michael Cuesta, a guy who has a lot of love for the non-flashy suburbs of New York but, if his indie film work is any indication, has never met anyone from the region who's happy.
And why should he care to show you those hidden happy people, anyway? They wouldn't be half as fascinating as what Cuesta has shown us so far, like Brian Cox's portrayal of a strangely near-sympathetic pedophile in L.I.E. or the young teenage cast who deal with death and disfigurement in the downbeat drama Twelve and Holding. And if you're sick of the indie-cute template of "person comes back to hometown feeling lost and alone and finds redemption," then this grittier version in which Ron Eldard comes back to his old Queens neighborhood after Blue Oyster Cult fires him as their longtime roadie will go a long way toward correcting that cliche. Not only does he not fall in love with a hot Natalie Portman-ish woman, he fails to step in and prevent a neighborhood assault, he falls in with two middle-aged rocker wannabes (Jill Hennessey, Bobby Cannavale) for a night of Wild Turkey, cocaine and angry screaming and, worst of all, he blames his dead father for his own stalled, go-nowhere, middle-aged life. He even neglects to treat his lonely widowed mother (Lois Smith) properly in the process. He's the kind of irresponsible jerk you don't even feel sorry for; the only thing he has going for him are some pretty great mutton-chop sideburns.
But then, in spite of the movie's own problems -- the lack of any visual or cinematic pleasure, the shallow rehash of Death of a Salesman-style desperation, the trite, silly ending -- Eldard makes you feel for this broken-down rock and roll creep. That feeling might be that he needs a good slap in the face, but Eldard doesn't want to be loved here and he doesn't flinch in the process of going for even that outcome. He's petulant, coked-up, earnest, annoying, flabby and puking, but you keep watching him in the hopes that he will, if not get his own act together, at least stop whining and lying to everyone he meets and just be nice to his poor elderly mom for five seconds.
Of course, if he did that then he wouldn't be the protagonist of a Michael Cuesta film. So proceed at the risk of your own irritation.