Worth A Look: 11.69%
Pretty Bad: 5.19%
Total Crap: 16.88%
1 review, 71 user ratings
by Stephen Groenewegen
Despite what you might expect from the director of The Crow and Dark City, Garage Days is a bubbly, good-natured comedy aimed at young adults. It’s about a struggling Sydney rock band, but there isn’t a heavy industrial soundtrack. Nor is the production design dark and gothic. Alex Proyas’ film eschews grunge; Garage Days is almost earnestly clean-cut.Freddy (Kick Gurry) is the lead singer who works in a record shop by day and dreams (literally) of being a rock star at night. He bemoans the lack of music venues in the inner city, where jukeboxes and poker machines now constitute “live” entertainment. The best chance of exposure for a young band is a support slot for a popular, hard rock outfit like Sprimp or by appearing at the Homebake music festival.
"Sex and suds and rock ‘n’ roll"
Freddy’s relationship with bass player Tanya (Pia Miranda) is heading towards break-up, as is that of lead guitarist Joe (Brett Stiller) and Kate (Maya Stange), the closest the band has to a groupie. The dissolving of these partnerships is convenient since Freddy and Kate are discovering a mutual attraction. Drummer Lucius (Chris Sadrinna) is indifferent; he’s in it for the fast sex and chemical highs.
They rehearse at the house of Kev (Andy Anderson), Joe’s father - an Oz rock survivor of the late 1970s. The band also has a manager, of sorts, named Bruno (Russell Dykstra). He means well but isn’t exactly a vibrant entrepreneur. When they land their important first gig, Bruno gets the names of the pubs mixed up. He advertises the wrong location and no one shows up to see the band play.
The plot of Garage Days kicks off when Freddy has a chance encounter with Shad Kern (Martin Csokas), the sleazy, rock ‘n’ roll manager of Sprimp. Then, relations within the group become increasingly complicated when Kate announces she’s pregnant...
Garage Days was shot mostly on location, in and around the suburbs in which it’s set (Newtown and Enmore). Although the tone is very different to his earlier films, Proyas maintains a distinct visual style. He collaborated with cinematographer Simon Duggan (The Interview) and production designer Michael Philips (The Well) to emulate the brightly coloured look of a live action cartoon.
The poppiness works especially well for the two drug mishap sequences - cheekily labelled “Fun with drugs” Parts 1 and 2. Let’s hope the Office of Film and Literature Classification are paying attention - Proyas and co-writers Dave Warner and Michael Udesky are using comedy to condemn illegal drug use without being condescending. A restrictive classification would kill this film’s hopes of finding a young audience.
Unfortunately, the cartoon breeziness also undercuts the darker elements of the plot, which focus on an increasingly disturbed Joe. The dramatic moments towards the end are the least successful, but Proyas handles the comedy with assurance. Dykstra is particularly funny as the bumbling manager. Anderson’s aging rock star and Csokas’ sex-and-drugs-and-rock’n’roll manager are caricatures, but Proyas keeps their broadness in check so they don’t overwhelm the film’s younger characters. Miranda is initially too strident as Tanya, but I gradually warmed to her, and Sadrinna is terrifically funny as Lucius.
Garage Days belongs to Kick Gurry, in his first leading role (he was Miranda’s boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks in Looking for Alibrandi). He mostly plays it straight, but is never a downbeat presence – he shines in the comedy and romance scenes, and brings an honesty and depth to the story’s soap opera elements.
The script has its share of great scenes, including a subtitled conversation while a plane passes overhead (Enmore is under the city’s flight path). But, despite a clever soundtrack, the story strays too far from the music. This is a film about a rock band where you come out wondering what the band’s name was (I’m sure it’s mentioned, but I don’t recall it and it wasn’t even listed in the production notes). Dave McCormack, Andrew Lancaster and Anthony Partos composed the songs and coached the actors in playing musicians, but we don’t see enough of the characters working as a unit to really believe in them as a band.The climax of the film, impressively staged during last year’s Homebake, reveals that’s partly the film’s point. The moral of this coming-of-age story is that “you don’t have to be a rock star to feel like one”. But the actors otherwise bring such vitality to the film that it feels like a letdown not to see them triumph.
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originally posted: 08/02/02 08:05:39
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Seattle Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.