Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard), even to the most forgiving soul… like his mom (Lois Smith)… is by all accounts a loser. For the last twenty six years of his life, Jimmy… now in his mid forties… has been a roadie for the rock band Blue Oyster Cult. A roadie. A guy who schleps around giant speakers, drums and guitars. A job I thought was basically done by college kids for summer cash and pot heads looking for enough money for their next dime bag. Twenty Six years, and while we have nothing but mad love for BOC, and assuming this movie takes place in the present day, Jimmy started working for these cats long after the luster had worn off. Not that we’re giving Jimmy a hard time because at least Jimmy was doing what he loves, no matter how menial it might seem, but dang Jimmy. But it gets better, or worse depending on how you look at it, because somehow Jimmy managed to get himself fired from his gig as a professional roadie. Now what’s Jimmy going to do? Not much of anything really, and that’s what director Michael Cuesta's movie ‘Roadie’ focuses on, Jimmy not doing much of nothing with his life.
We would’ve liked to have known what Jimmy did to get fired from this gig of his, since I’m thinking he should probably have Roadie Tenure after twenty six years on the job, plus BOC just drove off and left Jimmy stranded in the middle of nowhere. Blue Oyster Cult – assholes. Who knew? So with nowhere to go, nowhere to turn and with no one returning his phone calls… and apparently Jimmy wasn’t socking away his hefty roadie paychecks… my man has no alternative but to head on back to the borough of Queens and stay with his mom.
Mom is pretty typical as far as old mom’s go, she is overjoyed to see her absent son, she wishes he would’ve called more, she might be showing a touch a dementia and she has no problem telling her baby boy what’s on her mind in regards to her sons extremely suspect life choices.
Then there’s the neighborhood that Jimmy left behind, which rears its ugly head in the form of Randy Stevens (Bobby Cannavale) who served as Jimmy’s nemesis way back in high school, picking on him, beating his ass, and giving the man named Jimmy
Testagross, the obvious and unfortunate nickname of Jimmy Testicles, a name he still uses on Jimmy despite the fact we’re all adults here. But outside of that, Randy does seem to have matured a bit. And then there’s Nikki (Jill Hennessy), Jimmy’s old girlfriend who he still seems to have some pent up feelings for, and who also ended up marrying Jimmy’s arch enemy. And Jimmy’s crap life has just gotten crappier.
But there’s always rock and roll. Nikki, little did Jimmy know when they were together, has always wanted to be a musician and has become a bit of a local songstress singing her folk songs at the local club, and all three of these people can easily reconnect with each other via the music of their past. It’s all good. But what could mess up this new found simpatico? Drugs and alcohol of course. It is still rock and roll baby.
Michael Cuesta’s character study of one severely stunted adult is sometimes a struggle to get through due to the slow nature of watching Jimmy flounder through life, but as it goes on and we get more familiar with these admittedly unsympathetic characters we are spending time with, the movie does slowly bring you into its world. This will probably happen quicker for the viewer that happens to be a big fan of obscure 70’s rock and roll and also grew up in Queens, New York.
As with any character study, it either sinks or swims on the talents of the actors playing the characters that are being studied. Ron Eldard has as set of sad eyes which does a good job in capturing the pathetic nature of Jimmy Testagross, but I don’t know if the audience will ever feel any empathy for the character or even if Cuesta wants you to. The character isn’t unlikable so to speak, but he’s just there taking up space on the planet. Poor Bobby Cannavale plays the asshole. Think Bobby Cannavale can play an asshole? Yes, Bobby Cannavale can play an asshole. Bobby Cannavale plays so many assholes that we’re tempted to think he just might be one in real life. Jill Hennessey probably has the most difficult part to play as Nikki was trying to straddle the line between her asshole husband, her pathetic ex-boyfriend and her own truncated, unfulfilled dreams and she plays the role well. If I was disappointed in anything with ‘Roadie’ it would’ve been that most interesting dynamic presented, that being Jimmy’s relationship with his mother, was somewhat underdeveloped and didn’t really get busy until the very end.
All that being said, ‘Roadie’ is an understated and simple film featuring complex people. Ultimately, I believe, it is also a good film about a life that is wasted… by Blue Oyster Cult.