Everybody dreams about being the rock star onstage, bathed in bright lights, whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The guy backstage carrying the equipment, handing out tequila shots and gathering groupies? No one really fantasizes about being that guy. It takes a special kind of person to do that, committed to outrunning the ever-pursuing memory of their own abandoned dreams--especially for 26 years. Such is the life story of Jimmy (Ron Eldard), a man who reaches a dead end after getting fired from his job as a roadie for Blue Öyster Cult, and has nothing to show for it except a creepy aging rock and roll beard that looks like the blades of an oscillating fan.
Imagine The Wrestler if Mickey Rourke had just wrangled spandex instead of earning his status as a has-been. This is why this movie never feels completely original or moving. But also similarly to The Wrestler, star Ron Eldard earned his paycheck by plunging into the deep end of the cold pool of vulnerability for this role. Here, his character has lived in a state of arrested development on the road, so it’s no surprise when he comes home for good he simply cannot deal with life’s realities. He can passionately discuss the impact of a band whose gear he schlepped, but once that fervor dies down, he has nothing of his own to celebrate. It's such a wasted existence, you can almost taste it.
The rest of the cast gets to wallow along with him, as there isn't a glimmer of hope in the movie at all. In a world of focus-group endings, I admire a script that chooses this route--but ultimately, it better be worth making me feel like a layer inside the Lasagna of Awkwardness, because crying while I am driving my car post-film is dangerous. Jimmy's mother, played with ultra-realistic charm and sass by Lois Smith, was mostly responsible for endearing me to the film. She was great as Sookie’s Gran on True Blood, and she's great here too--when Jimmy shows up and starts making claims about managing the band and writing songs for them, her old-school style of holding her tongue (with the occasional slip-up) makes her one of the only characters to side with. But even her hardened Queens attitude feels grating after a while.
Other characters aren’t fully realized--Jimmy's ex-girlfriend Nikki (Jill Hennessy) and his arch-enemy Randy (Bobby Cannavale) are now married, but aside from adding to the unpleasant atmosphere and a couple of acoustic songs from Nikki, the movie could have existed without them. It's all about Jimmy's pleading eyes anyway. But superfluous characters make for uninteresting conflicts that we all can see coming, which makes the movie end sort of how you expected. A valiant effort, but as tired as a rock star after a 200-city tour.