Buy this selection
Falling From Grace
Rock stars want to be actors and actors want to be rock stars. The road to pop culture stardom is strewn with the failed attempts by celebrities to crossover to become cultural icons, as if being rich and famous as just a rock star or just a movie star isn't enough. We had to listen to Don Johnson's dreadful rock debut, Heartbeat (C'mon. I know you have heard it. "I'm looking for a HEAAAAAAARTBeat. Nothing, but a HEAAAAAAARTBeat."). There was Rick Springfield stumbling through Hard To Hold. Or how about Paul McCartney in Give My Regards to Broad Street. And Sting in many, many, many films. Most of these crossover attempts are dreadful, but, once in a while, a new talent is discovered. That's why this week is Music Stars Who Want to be Movie Stars Week on WaffleMovies.com.
Back in 1992, John Cougar Mellencamp directed and starred in this little seen gem, Falling From Grace. He plays country music star Bud Parks, who has just returned to his rural hometown in Indiana to seek refuge and peace from his hectic, complicated life. In many ways, Bud is tired of being a big star - the pressure to continue producing one album after another, the press and the road. He misses the simple life he had before becoming a star.
When he arrives back home for a short vacation, Bud must confront some old ghosts from his past. His father, Speck (Claude Akins), is wrapped up in gambling, drinking and womanizing, while his former girlfriend, PJ (Kay Lenz), who is married to his brother, Parker (Brent Huff), is having an affair. Soon, Bud is feuding with his wife, Alice (Mariel Hemingway), and falling into the same old habits that almost ruined his life. The situation doesn't improve when Bud announces that he wants to quit the music business and live in Indiana.
Will he lose everything he has worked so hard to achieve?
In many ways, the movie examines the old adage, "the grass is always greener on the other side." After being away from his family and hometown, Bud has romantic notions about life in a small town being less complicated. However, the audience soon sees that this small town rivals Hollywood when it comes to gossip, questionable ethics and fooling around.
For a first time actor and director, Mellencamp is pretty good. He is able to voice Bud's frustration over being controlled by the industry and fame. It is easy for an average citizen to question why we should pity someone who has risen to the enviable position of music star and millionaire, but Mellencamp is able to evoke sympathy from the audience, while simultaneously earning our condemnation for abandoning the vocation that feeds his family.
Since the movie is semi-autobiographical, he is quite familiar with the material, so it isn't too much of a professional stretch. However, Mellancamp constructs a low key and poignant film, even though the climatic scenes are a little melodramatic. Instead of hogging the spotlight for himself, he allows other actors to shine, especially Lenz.
Lenz shows her talent as the manipulative, yet, pitiable woman Bud left behind. Feeling lost without a man to take care of her, she grabbed onto Parker, but never really loved him. Lenz effectively shows many aspects to her character's complicated personality. The audience pities her because Bud walked away from her once he had a shot at greatness, but we are also revolted by her infidelity and flimsy justification for it. Like the rest of the film, the audience is torn about how they should feel about this complex situation.
The film is full of beautiful cinematography, and I am curious to see if Mellencamp could display similar directing talent with other material that is not autobiographical. Rent this one if you are in the mood for a pleasant surprise.
Director: John Cougar Mellencamp
Writer: Larry McMurtry
John Cougar Mellencamp Bud Parks
Mariel Hemingway .. Alice Parks
Claude Akins .. Speck Parks
Dub Taylor . Grandpa
Kay Lenz PJ
John Price ... Mitch
Brent Huff ... Parker Parks
Larry Crane Ramey
Copyright 1999 - WaffleMovies.com