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By Ted Baldwin

Amusing, isn't it?

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Rock Star

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A film with such a potential for self-indulgence, posturing and smarmy attitude actually is one of the year's best.
 Insightful and funny. Easily recommended, and I am not a fan of rock music, though I did like the New York Dolls, and Bowie and Iggy Pop are ok.
     After all of the self-congratulation of The Rose, and other endless hokums to the legend of Rock Stars comes this surprisingly refreshing and interesting look at how one band sucked a rock wannabe out of the depths of pittsburbia and into the limelight. (The film is also visually interesting, and given 30 years of Woodstock concert films, that is an amazing feat.)

     Mark Wahlberg plays Chris Cole, the lead singer of "Blood Pollution" a Tribute Band dedicated to copying and playing only the music of the world's premiere heavy metal group Steel Dragon - chord for chord. His one ambition is to idolize Bobby Beers, the lead singer of Steel Dragon's lead singer, right down to mascara and embroidered jacket.

     Unlike other Rock-legend film heroes, Chris is a pretty normal guy, with supportive parents, a jerky brother, a great girlfriend - adoring fans - with real talent hidden behind the facade of the idols on stage. He refuses to try his hand at originality. In a telling moment, Chris is seen at his day job, repairing copiers.

     In some ways the story is like "Rudy" - smalltown guy (well, from Pittsburgh) finally gets his chance to be a star - and what he does with it makes all the difference.

     The first shock, of many, is finding out the truth about his idol, the man he longs to be. In a raw and truth filled scene, the reasons Bobby Beers is out, and anyone else is in, are detailed. What is usual, and this goes for almost all of us, is Chris' instant denial, that what these cretins are doing to their main man are somehow not reflective of how they will eventually treat him. Self-centered egomaniac Rock Bastards are predictable, is anything.

     "Rock Star" isn't just about how great it is to have everything you ever wanted, it's about Cole's awakening to the finer points of life, and what happens when everything you ever wanted is just not enough.

     When it all comes crashing down, the things he does on the way up are beautifully, symmetrically done to him, as it seems to be for anyone that dares buck the system.

     Yes, there is a system - and for a reason. It is cruel, and pointless, and unjust, but it has its purpose - it is a single-minded engine feeding the fantasy of the masses. Chris Cole's bitter fate, as he reaches the pinnacle of his dream, is to live the fantasy out for the ten million or so fans that buy records and want to be him. It is about money (as is filmmaking for instance), and you need to remember that at all times, or be content doing it for fun.

     This system has a lot of rules and one precludes relationships - he has to "score all the women" so the fans can relate to their fantasy man. Nothing else will do.

     He has to live fast - to the point of not even knowing what city he is in.

     He has to do what he is told to keep the money machine rolling. And as long as he plays along, he gets respect. When he tries to be his own man he is swatted down cruelly and without care.

     Soon he realizes he is trapped in a futureless dream gone sour.

     One of the fascinating parallels in this film is how similar his own band politics are to the politics of the real band. He is dealt with in exactly the same manner as he dealt with his own band.

     When he tries to write his own music for the band, he is shut down and told the fans expect something specific from Steel Dragon, and only the guys who previously wrote the music will write the music. Makes business sense, but he could have been told that going in.

     This lock on creativity means that Steel Dragon is in reality nothing more than a self-tribute band! This is hilarious, and funnier the more I think about it.

     In the end, Chris definitely gets what he deserves, and that is worth waiting for.

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