*½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras C+
starring Kick Gurry, Maya Stange, Pia Miranda, Russell Dykstra
screenplay by Dave Warner & Alex Proyas and Michael Udesky
directed by Alex Proyas
by Walter Chaw A film done better just last year with Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People, the brilliant Alex Proyas's third film is a relatively innocuous, mostly-failed rags-to-rags garage-band opera that finds its speed in its usage of stock crowd footage from an old INXS concert. Garage Days is, as you might assume, a period piece of sorts, but period only in the sense that a Baz Luhrman film is a period film (Baz is even referenced, in the picture's best moment, in an LSD hallucination set to Rick James at his sleaziest)--ostensibly taking place on the Manchester-esque mean streets of Sydney sometime in the last twenty years, though unmistakably a product of the self-reverential school of the post-modern visual boom-factory. The style the substance, Garage Days is all cover and no book and the sort of picture that seems like a lot of fun without actually being all that much fun: Trainspotting with amplifiers.
Freddy (Matthew Lillard look-alike Kick Gurry) is the front-man for a genuinely bad rock band that counts as its members a mentally unbalanced lead guitarist Joe (Vincent D'Onofrio look-alike Brett Stiller), and a budding druggist drummer Lucy (Vanilla Ice look-alike Chris Sadrinna). Meanwhile, Joe's girlfriend Kate (Sabrina Lloyd look-alike Maya Stange), pregnant, has fallen in love with Freddy (and vice versa), while the group gets a once-in-a-lifetime shot at the Big Time by accidentally uncovering the indiscretion of Big Time record producer Shad Kern (Russell Crowe look-alike Marton Csokas). The picture is like The Apartment in a lot of ways, revolving around the bittersweet courtship between the last innocents (who are, after all, not very innocent) in a morally decomposing world; but unlike The Apartment, it has no real weight, hurting itself when its sources for comedy are too literal and its aspirations, a little like its central band, are too in-pocket.
Garage Days' energy is curiously muted, feeling a lot like trying too hard with issues less existential (like Proyas's last two films, The Crow and Dark City) than ephemeral. If it's not a time capsule, and it doesn't deal with larger issues, it seems difficult to rationalize the amount of fireworks devoted to its presentation. Swatting flies with Buicks is effective, but it's overkill at best and showing off at its worst. The picture finds itself during a hilarious curtain call, touching the sublime now and again in its soundtrack choices while brief stretches follow a rebel beat. But there's no real conflict in the picture, nothing that compels movement from show-stopper to show-stopper, playing out in the end like a concert that needed better cohesion in its set list--and a glorification of small-time losers dreaming small-time dreams and finding happiness, without a hint of regret, in their limitations. Existential after all, I guess, Garage Days is a small film by a filmmaker with a genuine vision--hopefully just a rest stop on the way to greater profundity. Originally published: July 18, 2003.
by Bill Chambers After an abnormally long theatrical turnaround, Garage Days arrives on DVD from Fox in a flipper containing 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and fullscreen presentations, the latter unmatting the top and bottom of the frame except during F/X shots. The image is more than adequate but less than perfect due to occasionally garish edge haloes around brightly lit objects and dancing pixels on solid backgrounds, though everything else looks hunky-dory. The film's palette contains some of the loudest colours I've ever seen, but neither oversaturation nor bleeding becomes an issue. As for the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, it's pretty obnoxious, if limited in scope. While bass crawls down deep for a scene in which "the pokies" topple over like dominoes, the front mains are more active than the surrounds or LFE channel, perhaps because retro music dominates the soundtrack and most of it was engineered for stereophonic playback.
Extras are evenly distributed among both sides of the platter, with the widescreen and fullscreen versions each receiving the same feature-length commentary from Alex Proyas. This is a good yak-track even though it peters out long before its official end, with Proyas making cogent distinctions between independent and big-budget filmmaking pretty much throughout. Unfortunately, he gets around to criticizing Hollywood's CG crutch when I'd wager that Garage Days (or "Gairrudge Days," as the Aussie Proyas pronounces it) had almost as much digital work done to it as Proyas's current I, Robot. In a more successfully provocative tangent, Proyas remains unapologetic about the film's cheerful depiction of drug use, something he apparently caught a lot of flack for Down Under. If this yakker earns a solid B+, the remaining supplements don't deserve a passing grade: "Garage Days Backstage Pass" (4 mins.) and "Behind the Garage Door - Interviews" are pitiful electronic press kits bereft of a single quote-worthy soundbite; the six short deleted scenes are a platform for more jocularity on the order of a student film; and a montage of "goofs" goes on way too long (for 5 minutes) to amuse people not involved with the production. Originally published: July 26, 2004.