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CBGB

Year: 2013
Production Co: Unclaimed Freight Productions
Director: Randall Miller
Producer: Randall Miller/Jody Savin
Writer: Randall Miller/Jody Savin
Cast: Alan Rickman, Ashley Greene, Malin Ackerman, Rupert Grint

The pitch for this movie might have been 'It's an American 24 Hour Party People', referring to the Michael Winterbottom film about Manchester's Hacienda club and Factory Records, ground zero for the birth of everything from New Order to dance music raves.

CBGB was a dive bar in a seedy corner of Manhattan started by failed businessman Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) as his latest project, an intended country, blue grass and blues bar (hence the name). Instead, he starts attracting the hottest young punk bands on the scene, and CBGB was one of the places that bought bands from Blondie and The Police to Iggy Pop, The Ramones and the Talking Heads to popular attention.

The terminally casual Hilly seems blasé about everything going on under his nose, letting friends and strangers alike in for free and bleeding money to the chagrin of his longtime partner, junkie right hand man and the sound engineer he apparently found at a streetside market and who knows nothing about sound engineering.

It's eventually up to Hilly's prickly business school graduate daughter Lisa (Ashley Green) to step in and take control of the finances before they have to close down.

The film makes great pains to portray the beginnings of the club (and therefore much of the punk music movement) as slipshod, dingy and held together with a wing and a prayer. At one point the back of the homemade stage collapses, sending the Blondie drummer and his drum kit plummeting to the ground.

As always it's fun to see famous people portrayed by good actors as they were decades ago (Malin Ackerman as a young Debbie Harry is a standout), but the film needs a stronger central anchor in owner/hero Hilly. It's fair enough to portray him as an eternal youth/slacker archetype, but Rickman plays the middle aged near-loser like a man who's just woken up, his eyes constantly droopy, his gait a constant dawdle, seemingly without interest in anything in life including his ever-growing following as the vanguard of a new musical generation. When he runs away to the Midwest chicken farm where he grew up – apparently because his problem all get too much for him – you haven't had any idea Hilly's even been worried about anything.

It'll also be interesting to see if the movie has any market – anyone who remembers any of the bands depicted in the film is way beyond the traditional cinema demographic and anyone under thirty is likely to laugh at the idea music of these styles ever existed.

It's an interesting slice of history but only the subplots and support characters have any life.

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