Eddie and the Cruisers (1983)

13 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Eddie and the Cruisers” is a movie about members of a rock band from almost 20 years ago who look back on how they got together, how they became famous, and what led to their end. They were called Eddie and the Cruisers—not a real band (a fictional one), but they seem like one in this movie. They reached their end when the band’s frontman Eddie Wilson disappeared—his car was found in a lake, but his body was never recovered. Some believe he is dead and others believe he is still alive. But if he’s dead, then what happened to the missing songs that were recorded by him? Surely, none of the other band members took them. A reporter (Ellen Barkin) is attempting to create the biggest story of her career by finding out what happened to those missing tapes. So she visits the band’s keyboardist and songwriter Frank (Tom Berenger), who is now a high school teacher.

We get many flashbacks in between the scenes in which Frank meets up again with other former Cruisers. We see how Frank wound up into the band—he suggests some poems for lyrics which were unappreciated at first but accepted eventually, being affectionately dubbed “the wordman.” He himself is unappreciated, as he realizes when Eddie (Michael Pare) shouts out every band member—including bassist Sal Amato (Matthew Laurence), band manager Doc (Joe Pantoliano), and Eddie’s beautiful girlfriend Joann Carlino (Helen Schneider)—except him. But soon, Eddie reconciles with Frank, saying they “need each other.”

It’s fun to see the Cruisers look back on the good old days after all these years. Doc is a DJ who is trying so hard to get the band known again but he’s in over his head. Sal is still in the music business, with a new lineup of Cruisers. Joann also can’t let go of the past and when she meets Frank, she tells him that Eddie is still alive but not showing himself—he’s performing signals he taught her years ago. But is Eddie still alive? And did he take those tapes? Everything builds up to an ending that is probably not an ending you would expect. Not many viewers will even accept it, but I bought it, at least.

Michael Pare is convincing as a rock star performing onstage, Tom Berenger is effective in the lead role as the “wordman” and the soundtrack is terrific. Also, the drama works in “Eddie and the Cruisers,” especially in the scene in which Eddie is thinking about ending it all because the band is not great. He questions the point of having a band if they’re not great. That scene really moved me in such a way that maybe I didn’t need a better ending, but I can make do with what I have right in front of me. “Eddie and the Cruisers” is a good movie—well-acted with a great soundtrack and a sense of biography. I feel like I knew Eddie and the Cruisers right when the movie ended.

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