Roadie is exactly the kind of movie you want to hate––an iffy premise, a script that asks you take leaps that pull muscles, a cast that seems mismatched; all that comes, of course, before you’ve even removed the film from its box. Within the first ten minutes you might even feel yourself tensing up, waiting for the plot to go into the deep south, to the land of the irredeemable; you can only watch in semi-horror for more than an hour as it winds its way to a somewhat predictable conclusion.
At least that’s what you might think. But something happens early on in this miraculously charming picture and its shortcomings fall away and you find yourself willing to stick with the story, eager to discover how it resolves.
Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard, Super 8) has just been fired by his longtime employer, Blue Oyster Cult. Unable to find work he goes home to Forest Hills, Queens, for the first time in years. He finds his aging mother slipping into the familiar trappings of old age: depression, a general crankiness, a forgetfulness that isn’t entirely easy to ignore and yet not entirely alarming. He can’t bring himself to tell his mother the truth about his circumstances and so he says he’s just passing through.
Before long he’s bumped into the neighborhood cad, Randy (Bobby Cannavale) who has married Jimmy’s old flame, Nikki (Jill Hennessy). The predictable happens––Jimmy and Nikki have unresolved feelings; Jimmy can’t believe Nikki’s married to an irritating loudmouth who can’t possibly appreciate all she has to offer. Trouble is, as Jimmy quickly finds out, not everything is as it appears.
For the first 20 minutes the pacing feels odd, wobbly, the rhythms uneven, but before long these seeming handicaps take on new dimension, having more in common with the stage than the screen. Moreover, the actors find the perfect nuances in these surprisingly complex characters and what ultimately amounts to a surprisingly fresh story. Among the more magnetic performances in the film is Lois Smith, Jimmy’s mom. Smith avoids many of the typical parental mannerisms and emotions, culminating in a truly memorable character and bringing out some of Eldard’s better moments in the film.
Hennessy, familiar from TV’s Crossing Jordan and Law and Order, delivers one of her best film performances to date, underplaying a role that a lesser actor would have quickly turned into caricature. The script, from Gerald Cuesta and director Michael Cuesta, has its flaws but even those––and you’ll have to discover them for yourself––add more dimensions of charm.
The film also features a memorable soundtrack with contributions from The Good Rats, Robin Trower, and, yes, Blue Oyster Cult, lending an authenticity that allows the story to reach something close to emotional perfection. (It helps that the Cuestas know their BOC well enough to make us believe Jimmy is as deeply ensconced in that world as we’re supposed to believe he is.) Roadie is indeed an unlikely gem of a film, one that grows on you oh-so-slowly then wins you over before you fully realize what’s happened.
Extras on this DVD include a photo gallery and extended trailer/review from HDNet.