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Oyster Cult Roadie Brawls With Cokehead; ‘Norwegian Wood’: Film

Ron Eldard and Jill Hennessy in "Roadie." The film, about an aging member of the Blue Oyster Cult stage crew, is by Michael Cuesta. Source: Magnolia Pictures via Bloomberg

Fired by Blue Oyster Cult after 26 years on the road with the band’s equipment crew, Jimmy Testagross returns to his old blue-collar New York City neighborhood because he has nowhere else to go.

The fictional centerpiece of Michael Cuesta’s “Roadie” stays with his widowed, Alzheimer’s-stricken mother and sleeps in his childhood bedroom, perfectly preserved as a rock n’ roll shrine with its concert posters, turntable and boxes of vinyl records.

Now a paunchy, never-married guy in his 40s, he also reconnects with a former flame, a local singer married to a jerk who used to torment Jimmy in high school.

“Roadie” is tinged with nostalgia, but never overwhelmed by it. It’s a clear-eyed, pitch-perfect look at a Peter Pan dreamer forced to face the fact that he’s never grown up.

The film features standout performances by its four primary actors: Ron Eldard as the washed-up roadie, Lois Smith as his tough-minded mom, Jill Hennessy as his sexy ex-girlfriend and Bobby Cannavale as her obnoxious husband.

Eldard gives a gritty, lived-in performance as Jimmy, whose long sideburns, horseshoe mustache and scruffy dirty-blond hair make him look like a relic from another era.

Jimmy is in denial about his failed career, telling everyone in his Queens neighborhood that he’s the band’s manager and a part-time songwriter. Meanwhile, he’s begging for his job back.

Good Rats

Hennessy, best known for her TV roles in “Crossing Jordan” and “Law & Order,” is also a singer-songwriter who released her first CD in 2009. She puts her musical talents to good use in “Roadie” as Nikki, who plays at a local club but yearns for a bigger stage.

Her husband Bobby is a car salesman and paranoid cokehead who likes to rib Jimmy about his vulgar nickname in high school. Bobby thinks Jimmy looks down on him and wants to reignite his romance with Nikki, leading to an ugly confrontation between the men in a motel room.

“Roadie” is infused with the rock music that Jimmy grew up with. In addition to Blue Oyster Cult, the mood-inducing soundtrack includes songs by Jethro Tull, Robin Trower, the Ramones and Good Rats.

A cover of Jackson Browne’s “The Load-Out,” his affectionate tribute to roadies, is played over the closing credits. A good choice, though I preferred the original.

“Roadie,” from Magnet Releasing, is playing in New York. Rating: ***1/2

‘Norwegian Wood’

Norwegian Wood” isn’t about Norway or wood. And though it takes its title from the 1965 Beatles song, that soothing sitar melody only plays a minor role in this depressing, gorgeously photographed Japanese film about anguished love.

Based on a novel by Haruki Murakami, “Norwegian Wood” is narrated by Toru Watanabe as he looks back on his complicated romantic life in the turbulent late 1960s, when many of his fellow students were protesting in the streets.

After his friend Kizuki commits suicide, Watanabe (Kenichi Matsuyama) falls in love with Kizuki’s troubled girlfriend Naoko (Rinko Kikuchi from “Babel”). When Naoko leaves Tokyo for a forest retreat, Watanabe hooks up with Midori (Kiko Mizuhara), an outgoing young woman with her own emotional baggage.

Watanabe swings back and forth between the women before another tragedy strikes and sets him adrift.

Writer/director Tran Anh Hung strips “Norwegian Wood” to its core, eliminating all but essential dialogue in favor of facial close-ups and striking cinematography of the Japanese countryside.

It’s sometimes hard to follow the story and the slow pace makes the film seem even longer than its 2 hours and 13 minutes.

“Norwegian Wood,” from Red Flag Releasing,” is playing in New York and Jan. 27 in Washington and Los Angeles. Japanese, with English subtitles. Rating: **

What the Stars Mean:

****          Excellent
***           Good
**            Average
*             Poor
No stars      Worthless

(Rick Warner is the movie critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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