Aplscruf's Music Blog

Diary of a Married Groupie

CBGB – THE MOVIE

CBGB The Movie (See movie trailer, cast, pictures and summary here!)

My limited knowledge of CBGB only covers basic information.  It was a nightclub in a run-down part of New York. An eccentric fellow owned the club back in the 1970’s.  Punk bands got their start there, including The Ramones and Talking Heads.  Tommy Womack of Government Cheese played there years later.

CBGB the movie showed up on Direct TV as part of a promotional deal to get chatter out there before hitting the theaters.  P and I gave it a shot and paid $10.99 to watch it from the couch.  Alan Rickman (most memorable as Snape in the Harry Potter series) played the role of Hilly Crystal, owner of CBGB.  I knew my bias for Mr. Rickman would overshadow any flaws found in the movie.

Having none of the historical baggage regarding CBGB freed me from the talk that surrounds those re-living the past: “That’s not how I remembered it.  That’s not at all what he looked like.  He would never say that.  I don’t think that was a good representation of (the band, the club, the owner, the dog, the toilet, the street, the bums…)” I was able to enjoy the movie for what it was: Entertainment.  That’s all.  It was not a completely accurate historical documentary or biography.  It was more of a caricature or comic book of that New York Punk scene.  In fact, the movie portrayed John Holmstrom, the founder of Punk Magazine as one of the first guests of CBGB.  His punk comics and cover art show up throughout the movie in a creative way, which makes it visually gripping and humorous.  We found ourselves smiling and laughing throughout the entire movie. At just over an hour and forty minutes, it seemed just about the right length.  The soundtrack rocks, too, with CBGB veterans, except for the glaringly absent Ramones.  Apparently, their estate did not want to release any major songs for this movie.  Bummer.

As expected, Alan Rickman had me from his first slowly-pronounced line.  His slovenly appearance and seemingly passive attitude of his character were actually quite endearing.  I don’t know if his portrayal was an accurate homage to the real Hilly, but I liked him.  There was a sweetness underneath all those layers of dirty clothes and bushy hair. I cared about him. Hilly was driven by the bands that he booked.  He cared about them.  He helped them the best he could to the point of risking everything, including the club.  Hilly’s daughter cared about him, too, and did her best to keep him and the club alive.  I hope Rickman’s peers recognize him for his outstanding work in this little movie.

Maybe those aging punkers and punk historians won’t embrace it;  but this movie needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  CBGB is an entertaining legend, a tale, a yarn–not a documentary.

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September 30, 2013 - Posted by | Alan Rickman, Movies | , ,

4 Comments »

  1. Sounds like you really enjoyed it for the entertainment it was meant to be. 🙂

    Alan Rickman is definitely one of my favorite actors. I’ll have to watch for this one.

    Comment by Fannie Cranium | September 30, 2013 | Reply

  2. Yes, T, it was a great deal of fun! There were a few gross-out moments (it is rated R), but we managed to laugh our way through them. Rickman was certainly not channeling his role as Colonel Brandon in this movie, but I still enjoyed him!

    Comment by aplscruf | September 30, 2013 | Reply

  3. I’d love to learn more about CBGB. It’s shrouded in legend and a lot of great bands got their start there! Obviously there’s the Ramones, Patti Smith, Joan Jett and the Talking Heads, but didn’t Blondie also get their start playing at CBGB?

    Comment by Dave | October 10, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Dave,
      Yes, Blondie also started there. In the movie, they name or show quite a few legendary bands who supposedly started there. I think there are probably some better sources out there if you want to get a more in-depth education on CBGB. This movie is getting a lot of flack for being light on content. It’s still loads of fun, though!

      Comment by aplscruf | October 10, 2013 | Reply


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