This offbeat film achieves the ultimate in compressing the rags-to-riches-to-rags
story. Within a few days, three girls go from runaways to rock stars, and
back to oblivion. (And back to stardom in the post script.)
A very young Diane Lane plays a teen with a 'tude. Some of her comments
get aired on television, and other teens express admiration for her in
"man on the street" interviews. Those broadcasts attract the attention of
some greedy promoters who are salivating at the fact that she, her sister,
and their cousin have a garage band called The Stains. It's more of a
theoretical band, really. They've only had three rehearsals and can
neither sing nor play, but after all rock has never been about musical
virtuosity in general, but about attitude, especially in the punk rock
arena. (Remember Sid Vicious?) Although the girls have virtually no talent,
their stage posturing and see-through blouses start to attract a
following, and the media gets a hold of the phenomenon, which enlarges the
following. The band's success also inspires more greed from more
promoters, and plenty of jealousy from bands which take music more
seriously. The jealous rivals soon tell audiences about the greedy
profiteering behind The Stains's ostensible anti-commercialism, and the resulting disgrace returns the
girls to obscurity as fast as it had lifted them out of it.
(As mentioned above, the film includes a post-script in which The Stains perform in a rock
video that shows they have rebounded to stardom - by becoming a glamorous
bubble-gum group! This makes absolutely no sense in context.)
This is an odd little film that almost works, but not quite. The pacing
of the film is deadened by 1970s-style dialogue in which long pregnant
pauses substitute for words, and the characterizations are inconsistent.
The script can never decide which characters and situations it likes or
even which ones it takes seriously. Some characters have been exaggerated
into obvious buffoons at all times and are in the film only for comic
value. Other characters seem to live in the real world. Still others seem
to stray back and forth between realistic behavior and buffoonery. I'm
still not sure whether this film is supposed to be funny. If so, it
fails, but if it could have found a consistent tone and held it, it might
have been a cult classic.
There is one other liability that kept the film from success. It is
filled with bad music. Mind you, this is not a weakness in the filmmaking.
It is SUPPOSED to be. It's a film about awful fifth-rate bands, so they can't
sound like Hendrix and Clapton singing Dylan songs. But that artistic
integrity comes at the expense of commercial viability. There's more than
a half-hour's worth of performances in this film, and bad music is bad music,
whether intentional or not. How many people look forward to
listening to a dozen really bad songs performed poorly? The answer is,
"Very few," and the miniscule size of that target audience limited the
marketability of this film so drastically that Paramount never released it
until four years after it was made, and then only to select arthouses.
They never even made it available on home media. Prior to the current DVD
release, the only way to see it at home was on cable TV broadcasts.
OK, so the film is not so hot ... but the DVD includes a commentary
track from Diane Lane and Laura Dern, who were 15 and 13 when they made
the film. (Young Debbie Rochon is also in the film, making her debut as an
Lane and Dern now look back on their youthful antics with a combination of
nostalgia and chagrin, and their reflections are worth a listen.