Making the Grades
While there is something nostalgic about the music from one’s youth, think again if you plan to introduce your children to the rock anthems of the ‘80s by taking them to Rock of Ages. No peppy, sanitized version here of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’”, as seen on Glee. The raunchy behavior in this film is what made your parents cringe then and may leave you wincing today. After all, who aspires to have his or her daughter grow up to be a pole-dancing stripper?
Yet, like a thousand girls before her, starry-eyed Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) from Tulsa, Oklahoma has big plans when she steps off the bus in downtown Los Angles. Instead she falls in love with barman Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) while waiting tables in The Bourbon Room on the famous Sunset Strip.
Strapped with debt, The Bourbon’s owner, Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his hairy assistant Lonny (Russell Brand) are making a last ditch effort to save the seamy establishment by staging a farewell performance for rock-n-roller Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise). Wearing an elaborate codpiece with a black pair of chaps that leaves his backside exposed, Stacee is about to be unceremoniously dumped by his band Arsenal. His oily business manager, Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), however, chooses to spin it as Stacee’s start of a solo career.
The real problem is the singer’s erratic behaviors and his questionable on-stage performances. (There seems to be nothing problematic about his off-stage performance ability.) What the rocker really needs is something sweet and innocent to revive his musical prowess deadened by too much liquor and sex. And Rolling Stones’ reporter Constance Sack (Malin Akerman) will do—though don’t expect any innocence from this perky blonde correspondent who can strip down to her skivvies as quickly as any exotic dancer.
Meanwhile Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the wife of L.A.‘s newly elected mayor, Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), heads up a venomous campaign to stop Jaxx’s appearance and clean up the strip. While she rallies a group of church-going women in the chapel, her husband exposes his whitey tighties in a priest’s office where his secretary uses Rosary Beads as handcuffs during their kinky sexual encounter. The sacrilegious depiction is vulgar regardless of one’s religious beliefs.
Vocal executions from legendary singers like Mary J. Blige (who plays the owner of a gentlemen’s club where strippers ply their wares with plenty of erotic dance moves) share the stage with first time musical outings by actors Alec Baldwin, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti and headliner Tom Cruise. While the reviews of their singing abilities are mixed, there is nothing ambivalent about this film’s content. Rock-n-Roll never pretended to take a moral stand, but this jukebox musical reveals enough skin to warrant a high exposure warning. Fueled by the suggestion of frequent sexual encounters and one particularly rough and tumble scene in a men’s restroom, this movie also includes heavy drinking and some strong profanities.
Hearkening back to an era when the outrageous consumption of hairspray likely put a dent in the ozone layer, the tunes in this film may leave adults pining for their teen years. However, very few parents may be ready to let Rock of Ages rock their children’s world.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Rock of Ages.
Why can it be difficult for a performer to avoid the pitfalls of fame? How can popularity affect an artist’s edge? What compromises does Drew make for the sake of being on stage? How realistic is Sherrie’s dream of making it big in Los Angeles?
What is the cultural significance of Rock-n-Roll? How has this musical genre influenced performers through the decades? Who do you think is the most influential performer or band? How does this film further the conventions of rock-n-roll?