THE ROCKER has been berated by a number of reviewers, one of whom stated something to the effect that Rainn Wilson lacks the substance to carry off his lead role. As a 40+-year rock veteran, I respectfully disagree.
OK. So I disagree, and I'm NOT really respectful. What do you want? This is a fun film, meant to entertain, not to ride the red line on the raunch scale. If you want a "rocker education," read the book I'm writing on real rock road travel in the '70s and '80s. Jack Kerouac couldn't cut it, folks. By 1974, he'd have bailed out the side door of our red, unairconditioned Dodge Maxi-Van halfway between Memphis and Tunica, Mississippi, heading down Highway 61. No Beat Generation road novel can capture what it was really like to wear the changes of the 1960s and gypsy your way through the '70s into position as "Top Band at The Varsity Club, just off Cherry Street in Helena, Arkansas."
But Fish gets it. Wilson's performance in THE ROCKER embodies a sort of "blood knowledge," if you'll pardon my quoting D. H. Lawrence, of a musician's paying dues with back-breaking work, too little sleep, way too much beer, and still loving it. Trust me. In the rock business, you never "work at nothing all day."
Spending years as a rock musician doesn't lead one to grow up, either. My former band mates? We Facebook. We're all still "Fish" in one way or another.
As THE ROCKER, Wilson captures the essence of Fish--of all of us--and brings him to life. Let's not forget: THE ROCKER is a comedy. Never growing up? That's more in the tragedy line, but THE ROCKER addresses this magical Peter Pan stance, which few of us rock vets ever lose. We're all crazy, and Rainn Wilson renders that mostly harmless insanity into something that even I can laugh at. As one of my former mates always said of us rockers, "There's one good thing about being crazy. You never have to worry about losing your mind!" Fish is THERE.
My only complaint about the "Born to Rock" edition is its exclusion of the complete bit with Pete Best. Those few seconds mean a great deal to rockers of my generation. I've seen the out-take, and I wish it were at least set up as an a bonus feature on this DVD. Even without that option, THE ROCKER: "Born to Rock Edition" still earns its full five stars.
No, you won't find authentic rock word choice in this film. You won't find the outrageous practical jokes bands play on each other just because they can. THE ROCKER is not an X-rated venture into that world. It's a comedy. Remember the theatrical mask with the smile?
If you're so slick that you're too hip to sit back and have a laugh with THE ROCKER, you might benefit from knowing that not all the musical "big fish" (pun intended) are decent players, singers, or songwriters. Thousands of bar bands blast some of these acts off the stage. Sure, the business is a "not what you do, but whom you know" operation. Then again, sometimes you're too good not to be noticed. These issues, too, are addressed in THE ROCKER. Me? I was ahead of my time. Doesn't matter. I'm still rocking. I'm still kicking butt. I'll never grow up, and I'll never have to worry about losing my mind.
Yes, the real world, for real rockers, is "soul-crushing." THE ROCKER lifts that weight, even if only for a little while. Every performer in THE ROCKER does his/her share of that lifting. Let go and laugh. You'll feel better. And if you're not a rocker, Rainn Wilson offers you a thoroughly entertaining armchair roadtrip--no dues required.
(Check Amazon's book section for IMAGES OF AMERICA: HOLLY SPRINGS)