Rockstar (2001) – A Guilty Pleasure

For me, few films earn the status of “guilty pleasure” – the term is usually a review of a film in itself. One mans trash is another mans treasure after all…. We take a look at this forgotten gem and try to define why it is a “guilty pleasure” film.

The fantasy story of the small town protagonist and his arc to becoming a global sensation. The story was inspired by the real-life story of Tim “Ripper” Owens, singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who was chosen to replace singer Rob Halford when he left the band.

Marky Mark Wahlberg is fresh-faced in this outing – back during the first of the actors golden eras and riding high off the likes of ‘Boogie Nights‘ (1997), ‘Three Kings‘ (1999), and ‘Planet Of The Apes‘ (2001).

There is also a strong supporting cast : Jennifer Aniston turns in a solid performance in this film alongside Timothy Olyphant and the lads “screaming like a bunch of bloody hairdressers”. Wormtail crops up there too.

Brad Pitt signed to star in 1998, but wound up dropping the project following creative differences with the studio.

Marky Mark spent five months preparing for his role as Chris Cole, working with a vocal coach, growing his hair (yes that’s his hair), immersing himself in the metal scene and wandering around Los Angeles in-character to prepare for the film.

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All aspects of hair metal are represented here which is part of the reason the studio changed the name from ‘Metal God‘ to ‘Rockstar‘ – apart from being more accessible to a rock audience the title was deemed to be too “focused”.

This film has a painfully 90’s feel despite coming out in 2001, and being set in the 1980’s.  It’s a feel good movie with an absolutely kick ass soundtrack birthed by Zakk Wylde, observed by Guns N Roses and delivered by Doctors Judas Priest, ACDC and attending physician DR Def Lepperd (PHD). KISS consulting…..

The soundtrack itself stands as a glorious tribute to the film (and fitting backdrop) with a selection of the genres finest artists in attendance :

1. “Rock Star” (Art Alexakis) Everclear 3:30

2. “Livin’ the Life” (Steve Plunkett, Peter Beckett) Steel Dragon 3:14

3. “Wild Side*” (Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee) Mötley Crüe 4:34

4. “We All Die Young” (Miljenko Matijevic, Kenny Kanowski) Steel Dragon 4:01

5. “Blood Pollution” (Twiggy Ramirez) Steel Dragon 3:59

6. “Livin’ on a Prayer*” (Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, Desmond Child) Bon Jovi 4:08

7. “Stand Up” (Sammy Hagar) Steel Dragon 4:18

8. “Stranglehold” (Ted Nugent) Ted Nugent 8:23

9. “Wasted Generation” (Desmond Child, A.Allen (Ajay Popoff), J. Allen (Jeremy Popoff)) Steel Dragon 2:54

10. “Lick It Up” (Paul Stanley, Vinnie Vincent) KISS 3:56

11. “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore) Steel Dragon 3:27

12. “Devil Inside*” (Andrew Farriss, Michael Hutchence) INXS 5:13

13. “Colorful” (Brian Vander Ark) The Verve Pipe 4:25 14. “Gotta Have It” (Trevor Rabin) Trevor Rabin 2:57

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The parallels of the film (Chris getting kicked out of the band, Bobby Beers getting kicked out of Steel Dragon. Chris outsinging Bobby Beers/Myles Kennedy (from Alter Bridge / Slash) outsinging Chris Cole. The tribute band material/original band material vs the Steel Dragon/Chris’ original material) are presented painfully at the forefront but provide a solid arc for Chris and the plot to progress.

“I’m Living proof. And if you work hard enough. If you want it bad enough. Dreams DO come true. So follow your dreams, man. Follow your dreams.”

To anyone who has ever been in a band – ‘Rockstar‘ is a very real, visceral experience of a film. It perfectly encapsulates the ups and downs, the creative disputes, the elation, pettiness and comradery. The rivalry with other bands. The “show must go on” mentality. (Maybe not as accurately as ‘Spinal Tap’ but few films can, lets face facts)

‘Rockstar’ is a “guilty pleasure” film – pure and simple – but not in the sense that you should ever feel ashamed of it. All aspects of the film are produced well so in that sense the quality is spot on. It is a “guilty pleasure” in the sense that by all intents and purposes this film should not be good at all. It is hard to define by genre.

‘Rockstar’ is absolutely absurd. Silly and completely sincere just like the source material – and that is the reason we love it. It combines all the elements you enjoy from films like ‘Almost Famous’, ‘The Doors’, ‘The Commitments’ and ‘Straight Outta Compton’. ‘Rockstar’ is a  pornographic love letter to the culture. A self-gratifying cheese fest.

Sure the plot is slightly predictable. But its a heavy tale of poetic justice and redemption. It’s a story of friendship and the Id. Really its the story of Grunges inception and its all-consuming domination of mainstream music. It’s about hitting rock bottom and having the strength to STAND UP AND SHOOOOOOOOUUUUUUUUUUUUT !

marvin cobain crazydiscostu
“It’s your cousin, Marvin Cobain. You know that new sound you’ve been looking for….”

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