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Sleeper Patrol: A “Roadie” Worth Taking

January 4, 2012

Roadie is not a remake of Meat Loaf’s namesake 1980 rock-and-roll comedy, but it could’ve been made in that era. Writer-director Michael Cuesta’s downbeat dramedy feels like the kind of sharply observed slice-of-life that came out of Hollywood routinely in the Easy Riders, Raging Bulls days. Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern and Karen Black might have played the leads, and Bob Rafelson would’ve directed it.

Nowadays, these small-scale character studies are made as low-budget indies—if they’re made at all—and increasingly they don’t even make it to theaters. Nearly a year after debuting at the TriBeCa Film Festival, and after a soon-to-conclude run on VOD, it’s getting a limited theatrical release—and it’s worth seeking out.

Ron Eldard gives an impressively lived-in performance as Jimmy Testagross, a beer-bloated roadie who loses his gig after 20 years on tour with the “thinking man’s metal” band Blue Oyster Cult. He returns to his childhood home in Forest Hills, Queens, reunites with his long-estranged mother (a sublime Lois Smith) and crosses paths with a high-school tormentor (Bobby Cannavale, electric as always) who’s married to Jimmy’s old crush (the still-lovely Jill Hennessy), a local folkie chanteuse. Not much happens, but the acting, dialogue and directorial details ring so true, it doesn’t matter.

Eldard has been a favorite of mine since his short-lived stint opposite Giancarlo Esposito as small-town cops in the lost 1993 Fox gem Bakersfield, P.D., and he’s on the same creative wavelength as fellow Long Island native Cuesta, who cowrote the script with his brother Gerald. Michael, who’s recently been directing and executive-producing Showtime’s riveting drama Homeland, made an auspicious big-screen debut on his home turf with 2001’s L.I.E. (starring Brian Cox as a pedophile who preys on a young Paul Dano). More than a decade later, he has arrived as a filmmaker.

Have you caught any small-scale films worth recommending lately? Report them to the Sleeper Patrol!


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