| March 15, 2012

Twenty-six years ago, Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard, Super 8) was hired as a roadie for the legendary Blue Oyster Cult. He thanklessly hauled around their equipment, tuned their guitars, and set up their gear before every show. Two days ago, Jimmy was fired. Unable to get a clear explanation of why the band has suddenly dismissed Jimmy, he returns home to Queens, New York to check in on his mother (Lois Smith, True Blood) for the first time since his father died. While in town, he reconnects with an ex-girlfriend, Nikki (Jill Hennessy, Crossing Jordan) and her husband, Randy (Bobby Cannavale, Win Win).
By any definition, Jimmy is a loser. A compulsive liar, he tends to exaggerate his status with the band so that his friends and mother will think he’s someone important. Obviously, just claiming he’s going on tour with the band he no longer works for is an exaggeration, but he also insists that he has been the band’s manager for the past 10 years and has written songs for their last album. All the while, he has no prospects, no direction, and no clue of what to do next. Jimmy may seem at first to have no redeeming characteristics, but it doesn’t take long for Jimmy’s humanity to emerge. In the beginning of the film, he’s frustrated and angry for being replaced on the Blue Oyster Cult’s tour, but once he meets up with Nikki, she manages to bring out a more innocent, calm, and vulnerable side to his character. Free of delusion, this other Jimmy must face the fact that his life on the road is over and figure out what to do next.
Since Jimmy left, Nikki has emerged as a talented musician, singing and playing guitar. She mostly plays small gigs at a local bar, but she and her husband enjoy pretending to be rock stars, trashing hotel rooms before Nikki goes to play a gig. Considering how little time Jill Hennessy spends on screen, this is a really impressive performance. She gives Nikki a lot of depth, but also doesn’t hold the audience’s hand and walk us through what’s going on in her head. She has her own denials about how her life has turned out, mostly evidenced by her being married to a self-centered man child. I’ve grown to really admire Bobby Cannavale over the last few years. His work in The Station Agent, Win Win, and Weakness have all been fantastic. He tends to bring a level of energy and charisma to his performances, but here he’s just a jerk. Cannavale does his best with what he’s given, but the character of Randy seems to be scripted as a standard alpha male archetype. In most films, this type of character would be little more than justification for our hero and leading lady to end up together, but Roadie has a few tricks up its sleeve and works really hard to defy being predictable.
In the end, we’re left with a couple of really great character studies, looking at the idea of loss and disappointment during middle-age. There is a lot of genuine emotion here, effortlessly connecting with a broad audience in a way that’s both funny and heartbreaking. These contradictions are further explored by the setting, as the film manages to make Queens feel like the smallest town in the world. The intimacy that creates along with a definite sense of isolation is maybe this film’s greatest accomplishment.
The only special feature on the DVD is a positive review of the film, summarizing the plot and praising the story and actors.

About the Author:

Joe Ketchum Joe Sanders is a podcaster, playwright, and college instructor in Kalamazoo, MI. He has a master's degree in playwriting and a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Western Michigan University, where he currently teaches thought and writing, and is the host of the Quote Unquote Guilty podcast, part of the Word Salad Network.
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