Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Overlooked Movies: Great Balls of Fire!

I've been listening to a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis music lately, and it's hard to avoid news stories about Roy Moore in Alabama.  The two men are entirely dissimilar except in one disturbing way, or at least Moore is alleged to have liked girls a lot younger than he was.  Anyway, all that stuff reminded me of this movie.  It's not a great movie, maybe not even a very good one, but it's still fun.

Let's start with Dennis Quaid's performance as Lewis.  He's great.  People who think he's over the top have never read any of the many Jerry Lee Lewis biographies or seen films of Lewis in performance (I've seen him only on TV).  Quaid nails him.  Lewis was always larger than live and over the top, and Quaid gets it all just right.  I don't know about Jimmy Swaggart, but Alec Baldwin turns in a good job as Jerry Lee's cousin.  Winona Ryder is the 13-year-old cousin that Jerry Lee marries, and she's okay.  

The movie never quite finds the right tone.  Sometimes it's almost a comedy, and at others it's serious.  I don't think comedy is the right tone for this story.  Lewis might seem like a clown to some people, but he was never that.  He was serious about his music, and while the movie gets a little of that across, there's a lot more there than we're shown.  Judy and I saw this film on the day it opened, what with both of us being big Jerry Lee fans.  We weren't disappointed.  You might be, but why not take a look and find out.

3 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I did see it and thought much the same as you. Why make it a comedy? How many biopics about musicians are comedies? Few.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

It's mainly worth seeing for Dennis Quaid's performance, which was great, and of course for the music. Otherwise, it wasn't great.

I liked the portrayal of Jerry Lee as young but brash and self-confident in the musical version of MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET too.

Mike Dennis said...

I am a major Jerry Lee Lewis fan and I hated the movie. Quaid's performance was over the top, yes, but not at all believable. Lewis himself is over the top, as you said, but I feel an actor playing him in a movie should dial it back just a little and concentrate on achieving the essence of the character, rather than his physical movements.

Also, as you said, the film veered uncomfortably into comedy. Lewis' life was far from funny, but the film seemed to mock it. He exerted strong influence over the music world and rock & roll at the time, but the film chose to make him look like a clown. In typical Hollywood fashion, it looked down its elite nose at this "hillbilly" piano player, not worthy of a "serious" film. Why do I think that someone like Miles Davis or Duke Ellington would merit far more intelligent and nuanced treatment in a biopic?