It seems that the only thing Stephen Herek's Rock Star offers is an opportunity at stardom for the many unknowns which happen to comprise the majority of the cast. Were I any of them, I wouldn't hold my breath for instant fame; Rock Star is an average film, and, with its mediocre performances and regurgitated plot, as easily forgettable as its generically simplistic title.


Chris Coles (Mark Wahlberg) is a zealous fan of rock-and-roll band Steel Dragon, so rabid in his adoration that he plays in a cover band and demands its members to play Steel Dragon's music to perfection. This attitude soon leads to Chris' elimination from the group, and he's left to make music on his own with the support of his girlfriend/manager Emily (Jennifer Aniston). And then, one morning Chris gets the opportunity of a lifetime -- an offer to replace the lead singer of Steel Dragon. He flies out to L.A. with Emily in tow, meets his idols, and soon begins to live the life of a rock star, savoring the ups of worldwide fame while Emily endures the downs of being the girlfriend of an international icon. The couple must cope with their dichotomous experiences if they want to remain together, while the audience must cope with the inevitable outcome that they probably will.


The major problem with Rock Star is that it's nothing new. The plot is wholly predictable; there are no twists or turns. And yet while relying on so much predigested material, it's still hard to tell what kind of movie Rock Star aims to be. While there are a few humorous moments, there aren't enough to qualify it as a comedy (although it's funnier than most films I've seen which have been classified in that genre), nor does the manner in which the plot is carried out really lend itself to such a label. And if Rock Star is indeed intended to be an overall dramatic piece, then any weight the film hopes to convey is nullified by the series of outtakes accompanying the first minutes of the closing credits. The wishy-washy character of Rock Star resonates with the audience more than the plot itself does.


With Rock Star, Mark Wahlberg continues to portray typical wide-eyed innocents who have just been initiated into worlds they have only heard or dreamed about. He did this superbly in 1997's Boogie Nights, as the well-endowed neophyte Eddie "Dirk Diggler" Adams, on the brink of a successful career in adult film. Wahlberg is good here too, but one cannot help but wonder if he is slowly but surely -- despite films such as The Perfect Storm or Planet of the Apes -- limiting himself to such a role. When one considers the many similarities between Boogie Nights and Rock Star -- including the time period, among other things -- one wonders whether Wahlberg is attempting to carve himself some sort of safety niche.


Aniston is adequate as the girlfriend Emily, save the fact that, in reality, she appears a bit too old for the role (their ages are never revealed, but presumably Chris and his girlfriend are in their early 20s). Still Aniston succeeds in distancing herself from her role as Rachel on Friends and makes the role of Emily a believable one.


It's unusual and worth noting, again, that that with the exception of stars Wahlberg and Aniston, all other actors appearing in Rock Star are unfamiliar Hollywood faces (the 1960's Batmobile excluded). This level of anonymity may have been used to lend a certain level of realism and credibility to the picture; if so, it doesn't entirely succeed because of Wahlberg and Aniston's presence.


Rock Star is a rehash, plain and simple. It's as if Herek merely merged the plot of the aforementioned Boogie Nights with that of 2000's Almost Famous and came up with something that takes from both without offering anything new of its own.

Archived article by Adam Cooper

November 22, 2015

O’BRIEN | Loving Rock N’ Roll As a Woman

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By KATIE O’BRIEN

At some point in my early teens, I started listening to rock music. Classic, punk, alt, grunge — I would stay up late into the night listening to and reading about my favorite ‘70s-90s era band at the time. In high school, I eventually came to the realization that pretty much all of the artists on my silver iPod nano were male. At first, this did not necessarily strike me as strange, or as a problem — I just accepted that the good rock music was made by men; that the deep scruffiness of a man’s voice was a necessary part of the rock equation.

CClockwise from top left: Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett COURTESY OF BLOGSPOT

CClockwise from top left: Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett
COURTESY OF BLOGSPOT

But I eventually became much more interested in introducing gender equality to my playlists. My junior year of high school, when I created a collage on my wall of pictures printed on computer paper, I carefully taped photos of Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks — some of my newfound favorites — among Led Zeppelin, The Doors and Pink Floyd. But the women on my wall were still outrageously and sadly outnumbered.

VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Rock & Roll list, compiled in 1998, contains exactly zero female artists or female-fronted bands in the top 20, and a measly eight on the entire list. There is a second list of “100 Greatest Women in Rock & Roll,” so it’s not for lack of options. So are men just better at making rock music? I no longer buy it.

As is probably common knowledge among people who read the Arts section, rock music evolved in the ‘40s and ‘50s as black musicians began combining styles like blues, swing, jazz, folk and gospel. First came rhythm and blues, which gave birth to rock and roll. But despite being aware of this history, there is one extremely important person it took me much longer to even hear of: Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

She’s the so-called Godmother of Rock & Roll, whom Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis, Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan all have cited as an influence on their music. Tharpe’s first hit was a song called “Rock Me,” and experts detect some of the first sounds of rock and roll in her unusual, melody and riff-heavy style of playing the guitar, and her passionate, gospel-style vocals.

While her influence is common knowledge to those who have studied rock music and its origins, Sister Rosetta Tharpe is not a household name today like the men who succeeded her. Rock and roll developed largely as a man’s game, and a white man’s game at that. In the 1970s, rock and roll had taken on its “sex, drugs and …” archetype in full force — an archetype that was and continues to be, more or less inherently hostile to women (I mean, just listen to anything by The Rolling Stones).

COURTESY OF PBS

Sister Rosetta Tharpe / COURTESY OF PBS

In New Yorker article “The World Needs Female Rock Critics,” Anwen Crawford tells the story of a young female rock writer being asked by her editor for a blowjob in exchange for the opportunity to cover The Who, and being told “same difference” when she pointed out she was a rock writer, not a groupie. The stereotype of the female groupie worshiping the male rock gods — perpetuated in movies and music videos galore — reduces women’s role in rock music to that of mere followers, staring up in awe at the men on stage.

Anwen also writes, “Rock music has rarely offered women the same tangible promise of social rebellion and sexual freedom that it has given men — though plenty of women, myself included, have tried all the same to find those liberties in it.” Janis Joplin was one of the few women who rose to fame within the rock n’ roll scene during the peak of the late-60s-early-70s rock era, and her ex-boyfriend Country Joe McDonald famously said, “Sexism killed her.”

The sad truth is that women in rock music have been overshadowed, undervalued and erased. And many women likely chose not to partake in a genre that did not want them: Joni Mitchell, for example, apparently wanted nothing to do with the label of “rock” — she always has called herself a singer-songwriter, and she too has been outspoken about the sexism she’s faced in the music industry, noting that whichever man was in the room with her at the time has often received credit for her work.

Today, women have much greater visibility in rock music and its derivatives. By the time of the Riot grrrl movement in the 90s, women were no longer the anomalies that the likes of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Janis Joplin surely were. That said, sexism still permeates the music industry. Artists from Bjork to Solange Knowles to Taylor Swift have complained about not receiving credit for their roles in authoring and producing their own albums. And all-female rock groups continue to be treated as a genre — separated off as a different category, like women in so many other fields and industries.

Riot Grrl, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill COURTESY OF THE AV CLUB

Riot Grrl, Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill / COURTESY OF THE AV CLUB

Sexism and decreased female visibility in rock music is just a microcosm of society as a whole. Still, I wish I could go back and yell at my ninth-grade self for thinking rock music was just a boy’s thing, and that I was somehow special for being a girl who cared about it. Then it wouldn’t have taken me so long to start listening to Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie, Grace Slick, Kim Deal, Joni Mitchell, Kate Bush, Laurie Anderson, Rickie Lee Jones, Patti Smith, The Runaways, The Breeders, Hole, Kim Gordon and the countless others that I either don’t have the space to list, or have yet to discover.

Katie O’Brien is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at kobrien@cornellsun.com. Midnight Radio runs alternate Mondays this semester.

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