GARAGE DAYS directed by Alex Proyas, written by Proyas, Dave Warner and Michael Udesky, produced by Proyas, Topher Dow and Adrienne Read, with Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda and Russell Dykstra. 105 minutes. A Mystery Clock production. A Fox Searchlight release. Opens Friday (July 18). For venues and times, see First-Run Movies. Rating: NN Rating: NNNNN
Director Alex Proyas apparently isn't happy unless he's torturing images. It can't rain in his films unless the drops are slowed, computer-enhanced and given the same weight as Omar Sharif's slow ride out of the desert in Lawrence Of Arabia, which is just fine when creating darkly surreal thrillers like Dark City and The Crow.
Garage Days, however, is set in contemporary Sydney and tells the story of a struggling young band trying to catch the ear of a top manager and find a place to gig, and it might benefit from a simpler style.
If Proyas actually trusted things like character and story, he'd be better suited to this straightforward picture. Instead, it comes off as a berserk cross between That Thing You Do and Trainspotting. And that's not a compliment.
The odd thing about Garage Days is that it's about a band that has little feel for music.
My experience of young musicians over the years has been that they tend not to stray too far from their instruments. Ever meet a young drummer who didn't carry his sticks in his back pocket?
The players in Garage Days spend a lot of time worrying about their big break but never talk about music, or even play much.
Kick Gurry, as guitarist/singer Freddy, handles his guitar as if someone had just handed him a python. This may be Proyas's subtle way of showing that the band will never make it, since they're too easily distracted, but even bad young musicians hang onto their axes.
There are a couple of good actors here who've been better elsewhere: Maya Stange is in XX/XY without her Oz accent, and Pia Miranda, as Tanya the bassist, was excellent in Looking For Alibrandi, with Greta Scacchi and Anthony LaPaglia.
But Proyas lacks confidence in his players and his story, so it turns into a riot of stylistic mannerisms that essentially distance the audience from the tale and assert the director's pre-eminence.
Look, ma, I'm stylish!
Good movies about rock bands
Hollywood has dealt with life in a band with varying results. Here are some that flew under the radar. THAT THING YOU DO With its early 60s setting, Tom Hanks 's sole directorial effort covers the brief rise and fall of the Wonders (né the Oneders) and their titular hit. Neatly, in 100 minutes, the film takes it from "That's a cute song" to "Oh god, not again" - the classic arc of the out-of-nowhere radio hit.
LIGHT OF DAY Paul Schrader 's 1987 family drama is best known for the Bruce Springsteen title song, which the Boss gave Schrader in exchange for the film's original title - Born In The USA. Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett play siblings and Midwestern rockers who try to hold a band together while making a living. Fox does his own guitar work, Gena Rowlands plays their mom, and the final rendition of the title song is one of the great moments of fictional rock in the movies.
BACKBEAT The birth of the Beatles in Hamburg. This 1993 movie spends a lot of time on Stuart Sutcliffe ( Stephen Dorff ), the original bass player, and his girlfriend ( Sheryl Lee ), but the film is truly memorable for Ian Hart 's anarchic portrayal of John Lennon.
JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS No, really. It's a very funny satire on the record business and its voracious consumption of young talent, and worth renting for the great boy-band parody, De Jour. You sit there, mouth open, wondering how they got the song Back Door Lover past the studio. Babyface produced the soundtrack.