A rock star turned businessman tries to get away from what has made him miserable to contemplate what to do with his life.
Trigger Warning(s): Drug Use
Characters & Story
Len (Rhys Ifans)
Between growing up poor, with a horrible father, becoming your generic rock star who was fueled by a screwed up past mixed with drugs and sex, Len has been through it. Yet, thanks to him going from a musician to a producer, he has found a nice income stream. Add on that he has his own label and he seems set for life.
Problem is, it is like he has developed some form of depression from both the low and high points of his life. Add onto that, while maybe not as abusive as his dad, he is still continuing the cycle of not being that father his kid needs. To make matters worse, though, two other children, not kids of his, look up to him and as he tries to deal with his own problems, alone, they bring theirs and expect, silently hope, he’ll take up time with them.
Zoe (Juno Temple)
Len made her into a pop star and then, on the biggest days of her career, he walks away from the award she worked so hard to receive. This is a slap in a face, an insult, so she drives 2 hours to Len for answers and decides not to leave until she gets one. Perhaps not the best idea for a girl who seems to only really have Len. Maybe Max too.
Max (Jack Kilmer)
The son of a would-be mega producer, with a look that looks like Kurt Cobain, wants to make music. He is even taking some time off from going to NYU to do so. Yet his relationship with his dad is fragile. So fragile he fears asking him for advice or to give a lesson. Making it where, rather than just announce what he desires, he instead tries to foster his relationship with Len. Perhaps a genuine act for it seems his mother Isabelle (Kathryn Hahn) was the real parent as Len would just make sure they had enough money for whatever they needed.
William (Keir Gilchrist)
A kid local to Len’s neighborhood who helps him around the house and almost seems like he has middle child syndrome. Thus pushing him to do anything and everything which could appease Len to the point of allowing him to stay in his company. Making his meeting of Max awkward for you can tell William adores Len or, at the very least, is using him as a surrogate.
The Need For A Father
The younger actors of the show maybe more so supporting characters than the star, but they truly are the pillars which make Ifans capable of giving a touching performance without ever shedding a tear. Through them, we see this need for validation, sometimes just the ability to spend time with someone, and while it is a bit weird in William’s case, at the same time it is touching. Especially as it is revealed that Len didn’t have any real example of fatherhood to go by and yet, here he is with 3 kids who hang on his every word.
On The Fence
An Aging Rock Star
I must admit, I felt that Len, while we are told of his past verbally, I feel kind of mixed on how he was portrayed. Not that I expected, or felt like, as he talked about his childhood, losing his sweetheart, and things of that nature, he should of ended up a blubbering mess in front of Zoe, Max, or William. However, Ifans makes Len so numb and almost dead, perhaps just trying to seek excitement as he realizes the fun times are over, that it leaves you feeling off. Like, on one hand, it is good that the character isn’t dealing with the life he had speaking as a victim and being a mess about it. Yet, at the same time, it is clear there is something bubbling underneath the armor of a kid who had a hard upbringing. To the point, you want to see that armor crack and see Len give himself over to feelings.
Is It Enough?
Another feeling that left me on the fence is, I’m not sure whether we got enough from our supporting characters. Like Len, they give us a good, or at the very least interesting, story, but the emotions behind it feel like they aren’t enough. One could argue that feeling numb and unhappy is what draws Zoe and William to Len, since misery likes company, but with Max it is different. He was there at 6, being a bartender, to his dad’s parties and his pursuit of rock I feel is incomplete since we don’t hear the music. Heck, we don’t hear Len’s. Thus leaving the impression of, despite being told a lot about each character, or things being implied enough to feel like you know them, it is like what may be held back to make them human makes them less whole as characters.
Overall: On The Fence (Home Viewing)
While everyone’s story is interesting, be it what is said or implied, no one has the type of performance which will grab onto your beating heart and squeeze till you cry nor tickle you to laughter. They are adequate, they get each character’s life established to the point you get them. But no one goes beyond that and pursues really trying to get you to emotionally connect with the characters.