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[personal profile] innocent_man
Empire Records is a teen comedy about a bunch of kids who work at a record store. At the time of its release (1995), the biggest names in it were probably Anthony Lapaglia and Debbie Mazar. Now, folks recognize Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler a bit more. But hey.

Lapaglia is a former musician who runs Empire Records, a pretty successful music store on the verge of being bought out by a chain. Joe (Lapaglia) is trying to stop that takeover by making the owner an offer, but his night manager, Lucas (Rory Cochrane) steals the money in a misguided attempt to increase it in Atlantic City.

That's the main plotline, but there several others. Deb (Robin Tunney) is just generally fucked up, shows up for work, immediately shaves her head (which Tunney actually did, which helps the acting in the scene in a creepy kind of way), and has a bandage on her wrist. Cory (Tyler) gets accepted to Harvard, but she's also getting ready to lose her virginity to the visiting celebrity, Rex Manning (Maxwell Caufield), at her friend Gina's (Zellweger) urging. And AJ (Johnny Whitworth) has to tell Cory he loves her. By 1:37 exactly.

Oh, and there's a shoptlifter (Brandon Sexton) who winds up coming back to shoot up the place (don't worry, just blanks), and then getting hired. And Mark (Ethan Embry, but credited as Ethan Randall) comes up with the genius plan to make it all work out.

Really, now that I try and explain it, I'm amazed this movie works as well as it does. There are so many characters and plot points going on, but the cool thing is that no one really feels unfinished (well, Eddie (James 'Kimo' Willis) and Berko (Coyote Shivers), a little, but you still learn enough about them to know them) and the plot points do get resolved. And, somehow, the movie doesn't drag.

Now, we watched an extended edition, which added back in a few scenes (like Cory getting her acceptance letter from Harvard) that I think should have stayed gone, but the most interesting thing it did was make Rex Manning not a complete asshole. In this version, Cory propositions him, and after checking how old she is (which she lies about, by the way; in the extended edition she's revealed to be 17 ARRGH), he unzips his fly and picks up a bottle of salad dressing, saying, "I hope you like the taste of blue cheese." And she storms out, disgusted with him and herself, and he just kind of shakes his head. In the original, he just says "Rock and roll," and there's no hint that he wants anything other than to bang her. I'm not sure how I feel about him being a more relateable character. I think I like the original better, but that may because I've seen it more.

And that's the thing, really. I saw this movie in my 20s, when I had problems like these kids and I worked at a family-owned coffee shop and I had to worry about paying rent but more about where my life was going. I understand the movie, as over the top as it is sometimes, because I knew most of these people or folks very much like them. So I still love this movie, even though as I've gotten older the characters read a lot more broken to me than they did when I was, basically, one of them.

Plus it's just so damned quotable. "What's with today, today?"

My grade: B+
Rewatch value: High

Next up: Enter the Dragon


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