"Johnny Suede" is not a film for all tastes. Not because it's a very strange piece, but because it's not an example of that in-your-face cinema that many are accustomed to. This is Tom DiCillo's directorial debut. I saw one of his recent films, "The Real Blonde," and I found it to be very impressive. So I felt quite curious about checking out his early work. There's not even a hint of flashy direction, and it's obvious throughout that the makers of the film were running on a low budget, but I didn't worry about those things. Brad Pitt (before he became a household name) is great--and perfectly cast--in the lead role. Next to his role as Tyler Durden in "Fight Club" I would say this is one of the best performances of his career. I just felt, in every aspect, he was made to play this character. Even the pompadour looked perfect on him, and I couldn't imagine any other actor wearing it better. His character, Johnny Suede, is so utterly likable that you feel obligated to scurry along on his little journeys. Johnny is not the smartest guy on Earth, not the classiest either and certainly not the most successful. He lives a pretty simple life in a ratty apartment, listening to vintage records by rock and roll legends. He has dreams of becoming a rock and roll legend himself, and is the leader of a band. However, the band never quite takes off. None of that "I dream of becoming a rock and roll star and the next minute I'm staring at crowds of screaming fans chanting my name" garbage we see repeatedly on VH1 as one of the "Movies That Rock." This is the life of a real struggling artist, who does have talent and potential, but can't quite get off the ground. Well...not yet. His love life isn't all too successful, and that's what's hindering his ability to proceed in his daily endeavors. First he falls in love with a beautiful girl whose current boyfriend likes to beat her. He has every right to believe that the sparks are flying between them, but suddenly she just blurts out, "I don't love you, Johnny." Then he falls in love with Catherine Keener. Things go well between them at first, but like in his previous relationships things also get shot to hell eventually. And we feel sorry for this poor guy. He may not be smooth or unusually charming, but that's the point. He's a nice, unpretentious average Joe who seeks true love and quite frankly he's doing everything in his power to make these relationships work. I've always admired Brad (A.K.A. Mr. Handsome), but I considered this performance especially unique. Though he's just as handsome as he was in "Legends of the Fall" and "Meet Joe Black," he's not on screen to portray his now-proclaimed status as the "Sexiest Man Alive." He just plays a normal guy, living a normal life and seeking a normal relationship. Though we may not all go for the "pompadour" look or listen to classic oldies on an old record player, we can all relate to his character in some sort of way. And speaking of music, I love that line where he says, "Real music has no time." When you listen to great songs by great artists like Bill Haley and the Comets or Ricky Nelson, you don't think about what time period they came from because they're timeless. At first, I thought this movie might've been set in the 1950's, but in all actuality it just involves a man who happens to be fascinated by the trends of the 50's, and I'm down with that. Don't expect a plot, because this is strictly a character-driven effort. And with a strong central character like Johnny Suede, I felt amazingly captivated and had an unspeakable urge to keep on watching. I guess you can call it a slice-of-life comedy-drama. I highly suggest people check out this overlooked gem. You'll laugh. You'll have fun. You'll have a good ol' time. My score: 7 (out of 10)
Comedy / Drama / Music / Romance
Comedy / Drama / Music / Romance
A struggling young musician and devoted fan of Ricky Nelson wants to be just like his idol and become a rock star.
February 12, 2021