By Dave Campbell | October 10, 2013
Writers: Randall Miller, Jody Savin
Starring: Alan Rickman, Ashley Greene, Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Freddy Rodriguez, Donal Logue, Stana Katic, Rupert Grint, Joel David Moore, Ryan Hurst, Johnny Galecki, Ahna O’Reilly, Richard de Klerk, Mickey Sumner, Taylor Hawkins, Bradley Whitford
CBGB is the loosely told story of how punk was born out of a New York club called CBGB (Country, BlueGrass, & Blues) in the 1970s. Actually, it’s more about the club’s creator/owner Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman), and the trials and tribulations of being the owner of a mismanaged country club who opened his stage to the likes of the Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, Ramones, Dead Boys, Misfits, Cramps, and in turn became the curator and “godfather” of punk rock.
This is music that I grew up with. I collected the records, followed the history, read stacks of biographies, and watched numerous documentaries that tell the accounts of this era of time. Unfortunately, director/writer Randall Miller and co-writer Jody Savin missed the mark in crafting a story and structure that pays respect to this essential piece of music history.
CBGB is ultimately just a revolving door of caricatures to every musician featured on screen. As if the “Lazy Susan” of shamefully represented icons wasn’t enough, we get an annoyingly repetitive transition between major scenes of Hilly taking his dog on countless walks, only for the filmmakers to sure enough cut to another shot of the dog doing his business on the club floor for the staff, patrons, and performers to step in. It’s a reoccurring theme that ends up being an unintentional metaphor for the movie.
Yeah it has a great soundtrack, but half of these songs came later in the artist’s careers, and some of the ones represented in the flesh or via song never even played at CGGBs! Not to the fault of the lengthy list of talent, the performances are limited to the unidimensional parts that were written for them and the poor direction cover’s none of the films shortcomings. CBGB is every bit as punk rock as Disneyland, and if this film really takes itself seriously as a retelling account of history, then punk truly is dead.