June 18, 2012

Are You Not Entertained?: Rock of Ages Not For Me

I love eighties music so much!

I discovered most of my favorite music from this decade on my own as a preteen, but when I met Josh whose entire childhood had been defined by his nostalgic music-buff parents, the two of us couldn't help making cheesy eighties anthems the soundtrack of our courtship. The songs we would blare on Pennsylvania back roads with our windows down were energetic, full of emotion, and just plain sexy. It didn't take long for us to associate some of our best memories as a couple with rocking out and singing along to Journey, Chicago, and other gods of the era.

I have to admit that being the good little Christian girl that I was, the emotional and often hormonal high that eighties rock gave me was a little unsettling at times. I was beyond excited at the way that being married dissolved that tension between Josh and I and enabled us to just have fun and really enjoy each other.

Hey, if we wanted to make out on a hillside to Bryan Adams at midnight, we could!

Sorry if that's TMI, haha.

My point is, the 1980's were one, giant, decade-long party. The music, movies, fashion, and pop culture icons all pointed to the rockstar lifestyle founded on three things: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Or sex, hateful music, and sex if you prefer to quote Rock of Ages' Catherine Zeta-Jones.

What, then, did I expect to find in going to see the eighties lovefest that is movie musical Rock of Ages? Well, I expected a dazzling trifecta of film, music, and theater, three of my all-time favorite things. I expected a good time like those that filled my high school days with Josh.

I expected the music I loved without the lifestyle that I knew went along with it.


The music. This goes without saying. The vocals are good (although a bit uninspiring because of inevitable comparison to the originals), but what really take this film to the top are the ingenious mashups mentioned in the above featurette. Songs that I never would have thought to combine are layered together in a musical cocktail that always succeeds in creating powerful moments and telling a story.

Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough as starry-eyed pair of dreamers Drew and Sherrie are pure sugar. They are adorable and touching whether in the bar, at the beach, or rollerblading on the boardwalk. We can't help but share their enthusiasm be it about rock and roll or about each other. Well cast and well played. These kids rock!

As the critics have already declared, Tom Cruise is king in this film. He absolutely killed this role. Not only is the character vastly different from anyone he's ever portrayed before, but it requires an out-of-this-world amount of confidence and gutsy, ear-splitting rock-and-roll vocals. Cruise rises to the challenge, owning the character and really living in Stacee Jaxx for every second of the film--from the stage to the steamy hotel room.


Too many subplots. Director Andrew Shankman took some creative liberties with the story line, and he's honestly made it difficult to emotionally commit to one character's (or even group of characters') progression. Is the main conflict Drew and Sherrie's struggle to gain the spotlight without losing love? Is it the Bourbon Room's battle against the squelching conservatism of the mayor and his wife? Is it Stacee Jaxx's internal fight with the lonesome and empty cowboy found inside his sexed-up rockstar exterior? I don't know, and I don't think they do either.

A climax to the film was also hard to pinpoint due to the fact that there were so many explosive musical numbers that seemed to "sum up" what had happened thus far in the plot.

Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The Bourbon Room is a temple to partying becoming "a sea of sweat, ear-shattering music, and puke" every night. Drunken sexual encounters and unpleasant bodily functions are laughed off, stripping and pole-dancing are idealized, and a mocking homosexual romance is injected into the plot.

And then there's Stacee Jaxx. Stacee is always surrounded by a virtual harem of groupies who wander around with him in a perpetually drunken and drugged haze. His fiery interaction with Malin Akerman's mild-mannered journalist character involves a strip down which the audience witnesses fully, kissing of rather intimate body parts, and a whole lot of licking. Now that is TMI.


Rock of Ages is both a glorifying tribute and teasing parody of 1980's American culture. That being said, a whole lot of filth accompanies what I had hoped would be good-natured fun centered around an incredible style of music.

I wish the movie had just been about Drew and Sherrie's inspiring romance kindled by good times together and a pursuit of crazy dreams. But alas, Stacee Jaxx's tortured character who has been shaped into a sex idol by the rock and roll industry shatters this innocence. Stacee even acknowledges to a magazine interviewer that being in the public eye keeps him from searching for true love, "the one thing that could save [him.]" Unfortunately, the "true love" he finds with this same magazine interviewer is illustrated by full-tongue french kissing and groping on a pool table to "I Wanna Know What Love Is." 

Pretty sure that is not what love is.

I understand that the point is to show what the breakneck-paced rockstar life can lead to in contrast with the hometown wholesomeness of Drew and Sherrie. It is a film about being true to yourself, holding onto your dreams, and deciding what you really want. Unfortunately, Rock of Ages shows us a little to much of what we really don't want. I think these points could have been made with less near-explicit sexuality and attention to drugs and alcohol. Definitely not a family movie. Probably could have used an R rating instead of the tenuous PG-13. All in all, a disappointment.

Just buy the soundtrack ;-)


  1. I was actually curious about Rock of Ages and hadn't decided yet if I would watch it. Like you I love the emotion that 80s music evokes. However thanks to your review I won't waste my time with the movie I'll just put in my Journey CD and relax at home.
    ( And the reference to your own relationship were sweet rather than bawdy!)

  2. Why, thank you! It's nice of you to say so :-)


Thanks for your thoughts!