It all goes back to the Wit and Wisdom of Spock — classic Spock. Whatever each and every one of us does to “stretch,” to “get out of our comfort zones,” there’s a lot to be said for doing that which we do best.
Therefor, Cameron Crowe.
Flipping past showings of his celebrated ouevre, I can’t help but feel that his masterpiece, “Jerry Maguire,” is one he slipped by us. And by “us” I mean critics.
Because a whole generation of us just love or loved this guy, largely based on his biography — enthusiast turned music writer in the ’70s, married a gorgeous rock star (since divorced), made “Almost Famous” about those experiences. A lot of us identified with that movie.
The one time I interviewed him, he was in Toronto, wounded and beginning the downward spiral that has been his film fate ever since by promoting damaged goods — “Elizabethtown.” I was interviewing him, but he sat on a comfy sofa, on his knees, the whole time, and instead asked me heartfelt questions about what he could do with emotional, misshapen mess of a movie.
I was honest enough to tell him it didn’t work, but that I wouldn’t change a frame. Love wins, and the long romantic phone call between Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom was magical, even if their careers never recovered from it.
His movies, the best ones, are more about feeling and scenes and characters and texture than coherence. “Jerry Maguire” is gooey and warm in the same ways “We Bought a Zoo” or even “Aloha” is. But it has Renee Zellweger weeping “You had me at ‘Hello,'” it has Cuba Gooding Jr. chewing up the screen and teaching Tom Cruise how to exult — “Show me the MONEY!” Slipped it right past us and the Oscar voters.
Feelings and scenes and characters and texture and MUSIC.
That’s what I’m getting from his Showtime TV series, “Roadies,” that Crowe brand of warmth over story beats, affection for a world and the people in it over character arcs.
It’s about a road crew on tour with a fictional band, and it is overflowing with music and musicians and the people who love them. “Greatest job in the world” one and all chirp, if asked, especially by the British bean counter (Rafe Spall) who makes them justify their jobs and their lives as he cuts staff to turn the Staton House Band’s road show profitable.
There’s a nice sexy chemistry between the world weary rock road warriors in charge, Bill and Shelli — played by Luke Wilson and Carla Gugino. And the rest of the crew is colorful enough to get by, even if all the boys still say Imogen Poots. Blue Collar Comedy Tour star Ron White as some legendary roadie condemned to join Taylor Swift in space for a First in History show? Inspired, or at least “out there. Crowe loves Southern accents (See “Elizabethtown”).
The warm fuzzies come in when you fall into the texture Crowe, who covered this world for Rolling Stone, among others, for years and years. There’s a guitar tech (Peter Cambor) riffing through a metallic cover of “So Into You” during soundcheck in Atlanta. Because, it’s an Atlanta Rhythm Section song. “Oh Atlanta” (Little Feat) underscores a pre-concert montage
There’s a groupie stalker (Jacqueline Byers) forever sexing her way backstage, despite restraining orders and security precautions. Dollops of rock history are doled out.
A rock star daughter (Taylor Marie Frey, daughter of Glenn) is one of Bill’s “girl in every town” regulars. Luis Guzman as the road crew’s bus driver? Perfect.
There’s a sound mixer’s system check ritual “Song of the Day” played on the PA that reeks of Crowe’s famous playlists/mix tapes. Everyone avoids saying the word “Cincinnati” on the bus, because, you know — roadie ritual re: The Who’s deadly concert riot there in the last century. Eleven people died back in ’79, and the word “Cincinnati” is cursed forevermore.
The guest stars — second on the bill for the shows– include Buckingham and Mellancamp, and Reignwolf and Lucius and The Head and the Heart and Jim James. Rainn Wilson plays an online critic who gets his comeuppance when the roadies slip him a mickey — “a fifty year old man dressing like a teenager.” Sounds like a Miami movie critic I know.
The tour? “It’s like a Fellini film crossed with an episode of the Monkees,” Lindsay Buckingham opines. “And I mean that in a nice way.”
It’s oh so Crowe, and adorable and funny and romantic and wistful and sexy and rock and roll.
No, it’s not for everybody, and maybe I’m being sentimental about the road not traveled. Judging from Rottentomatoes, that could be the case.
But it is Cameron Crowe pursuing his first, best destiny. And it’s on Showtime.