Empire Records (1995)

Listening to This Crap is Guaranteed to Make You Sterile.

I again found myself bored and out of ideas, and that’s a situation that can only be solved by my Netflix instant queue.  I don’t really remember putting today’s movie in the queue, but seeing me got me to thinking about it.  This is a movie I’ve felt like I should see for a while now, but never really had anything resembling interest in watching it beyond seeing a couple of hot actresses on the cover of the movie.  I feel like the movie was a popular one, but seeing a movie based strictly on attractive actresses has backfired on me more than once.  When looking at Rotten Tomatoes, I find that the legit critics say this movie sucks the balls, but the average Joe loves the thing.  It’s time yet again to see if I can count myself amongst the legitimate critics by reviewing Empire Records, written by Carol Heikkinen, directed by Allan Moyle, and starring Rory Cochrane, Anthony LaPaglia, Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Ethan Embry, Maxwell Caulfield, Debi Mazar, Brendan Sexton III, Coyote Shivers, Ben Bodé, and James Wills.

Joe (Anthony LaPaglia), the owner of a small record store called Empire Records, has selected one of his employees, Lucas (Rory Cochrane), to close the store by himself for the first time.  In response to the trust instilled in him, Lucas takes $9,000 from the night’s deposit and takes it to Atlantic City, where he promptly loses it all.  Joe needs to figure out how to react to this.  Also going on, a famous pop star named Rex Manning (Maxwell Caulfield) is coming to sign autographs at the store, a cashier named Corey (Liv Tyler) has decided to give herself to him, A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) decides he’s in love with Corey, they catch a shoplifter that only identifies himself as Warren Beatty (Brendan Sexton III), another employee named Deb (Robin Tunney) has tried to kill herself, employee Mark (Ethan Embry) is an idiot, and employee Gina (Renée Zellweger) is a slut.

YAY!  I’m a real critic!  This movie sucks.  I’m pretty sure it’s intentions were towards comedy, but it failed all the way through.  All it really managed to be was a collection of stories that weren’t that interesting from various Gen-Xers that work in a record store.  It’s kind of like Clerks if Kevin Smith wasn’t funny.  None of the various stories were ever interesting, and most of them got on my nerves.  The main story was the story between Lucas and Joe about the $9,000.  I started off annoyed with it because, as someone who has worked for many years in a similar industry, it’s stupid to let someone in the store after it’s closed.  Yeah, maybe that weird lady would buy something for $20, or maybe she could fuck off and come back the next day.  I guarantee there’s nothing that you “need” in that store, and your “wants” can wait.  I don’t know if it’s a sign of my slowly advancing age, but I sided with Joe towards the beginning of the movie.  This little dipshit stole $9,000!  I would probably beat the shit out of him, get him arrested, and probably fire Gina for thinking it was funny enough to make jokes about it.  You can fight the man from in prison, where you’ll actually be fighting the man away from your butthole.  But this movie is trying to have some Gen-X vibe to it, so he instead changes into a cool guy by the end of the movie and everything works out miraculously in the last 5 minutes.  The next big story was the Corey/Gina/AJ/Rex Manning story.  Corey wanted to fuck Rex, but when he was about to whip it out she left to go cry on the roof.  Then Corey calls Gina a slut (because she was).  As a slut, her only reaction to anything in life is to go and fuck someone, and that’s just happens to be Rex.  Then Corey and Gina get mad at each other, but their relationship is fixed when later Corey has a big revelation that she idolizes the slutbag for her free spirit … and free pussy, I suppose.  That’s a great message, and I thank you for being the one brave enough to tell it.  I don’t even know how the situation came up in the first place.  Rex Manning was clearly gay as he looked like the lovechild of Liberace and Rick Astley.  Also, no one in a self-respecting, hipster record store would have time to do anything but hate someone like Rex Manning.  The other big story in the movie was the suicidal Deb.  That story also wouldn’t have worked out well if I were around.  Right after she randomly shaved her head while looking in the mirror like Jodie Foster in the Accused, and then someone pointed out her wrapped up wrist from where she tried to slice, her side of the movie would be over.  I would’ve instantly written her off as an attention starved twat and recommended she try again with a better blade.  Either she would shut up or she would succeed.  Either way, I win.  The music in the movie was one of its few saving graces, but I would expect that from this kind of movie.  Otherwise, the only thing about the movie I enjoyed was the nostalgia of seeing a Super Nintendo and a first gen Gameboy in the movie.

Even the performances in the movie were hit or miss for me.  The people were either irritating or hot.  Sometimes both.  Rory Chochrane’s character was either cocky or stupid.  Possibly both, but definitely annoying.  As was Ethan Embry, but he was definitely playing it stupid.  I really liked Renée Zellweger in this movie, but only because it’s the first time I can remember ever thinking she was attractive.  I found her so attractive that I didn’t even really know it was her.  I thought it was Joey Lauren Adams without the annoying voice.  But she was really hot in the movie, and generally just wearing a really short skirt, or even less.  I did get a little annoyed with her character near the end when she was singing backup with the band on the roof of the record store, but only because she got all scared when the singer told her to take the lead.  Bitch, you were just singing in front of a crowd like 20 seconds ago.  What’s the difference?  Debi Mazar’s character was a source of irritation for me.  She’s a seemingly successful manager for Rex Manning, but she gets all embarrassed when the minimum wage fucks at a record store are laughing at her because she works for a joke like Rex Manning.  I would’ve laughed right back at them because I make so much more money working for a joke than they do in the respectable job of record monkey.  They take a different path.  They go all “Fight the man” on us and have her quit and decide she wants to date the owner of a record store.

I side with the critics on this one.  Empire Records is not a good movie.  It’s a disjointed and uninteresting story peppered with failed attempts at comedy, and serves only to show us today that people in ’95 thought Gen-X people were so cool.  We call them hipsters now and proceed to ignore and/or mock them.  The only things I really liked in this movie was that it was the only time I’ve ever found Renée Zellweger attractive, Liv Tyler continues to be attractive, and Robin Tunney is attractive for 12 seconds and then cuts her hair like Jodie Foster in the Accused.  Skip this movie, or at least explain to me why I should have liked it.  Because I don’t get it.  Empire Records gets “I tried to kill myself with a Lady Bic” out of “You deserved that.  You know that?”

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