“What took you so long?”
Finally I have caught up with all of Cameron Crowe’s films. Like his directorial debut, Say Anything …, Singles brings us great music, a cast of unknowns we all know now, and a story with heart and laughs. Maybe it just goes to where I am in my life at the moment, but this movie really resonated with me. The fact that life relies so much on luck, whether good or bad, to shape our personal relationships, our career, and our loves is quite prevalent. Sometimes it takes an accident, an event that you were never looking for, to bring two people together, or rekindle something that was thought to be lost forever. If only I lived in Seattle right now and it was the early-90s, I wouldn’t mind going through it all as much as in Buffalo. At least I could go to a club show and see acts like Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Citizen Dick. Now that was a music scene.
Singles is about just that, a group of twenty-somethings going through that transition after college, beginning careers and looking for meaningful relationships. Most of the characters live in a small apartment complex and are very close friends, (I guess you can look past the fact that the entire five person building consists of that one age group). There is the rocker working four jobs and not able to see the perfect girl standing right in front of him (Matt Dillon); the girl who is working off her loans to go back to school and make something of her life (Bridget Fonda); the guy who has found success in work but not in life finally running into the girl of his dreams in the one place he never thought he’d find her (Campbell Scott); and that girl, tired of the games and heartbreak, trying to open herself up to him, someone she cares for, but is too afraid to risk losing everything again (Kyra Sedgwick). Each of these actors is fantastic and adds just the right amount of quirk and individuality to the film. We all know people like these and I know I started to superimpose myself with my friends into the story because it has or could happen to us. Sure it is a different decade and yes the film is dated in that way (garage openers as the new varsity letter jacket?) but at its core, this could be any year.
I also really like the direction by Crowe. He is a writer and rock music fanatic by trade and attempts to infuse a lot of his own sensibilities to the work. There is a novice quality still at play and it just makes everything that much more believable and tenuous. Without the gloss and polish you feel as though it all is transpiring right before your eyes. Even his use of breaking the fourth wall, for no apparent reason whatsoever, worked for me. Splitting the film into vignettes is a nice touch too, but it is the narration straight to the camera that intrigues. I would love to say a show like “Saved By the Bell” owes much to this film, but sadly it predates it. So, maybe Crowe appropriated the gimmick himself, either way it works as a way of seeing inside the leads and flesh them out a bit more. The payoff of Scott yelling out the window for Dillon to be quiet as he was talking is great. He’s talking to us as an aside fictionally, but I guess the guy needs his concentration. I even liked the spotting blatant material objects for each character, especially books. One is by Lester Bangs, (a future role infused in Crowe’s Almost Famous); Sedgwick, of course, has Franny & Zooey (a superior novel in my opinion to Catcher in the Rye as she is looking for her Holden Caufield); and Fonda has Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, as should every aspiring architect.
And the cameos—how can I not mention the plethora of bit parts, all priceless in their own way? We have the soundtrack’s performers sprinkled throughout from Dillon’s band Citizen Dick consisting of Pearl Jam’s Vedder, Ament, and Gossard to Chris Cornell enjoying Fonda’s car get the bass kicked out of it on the street corner. The great Bill Pullman as the lost plastic surgeon, overwhelmed by career success yet unable to have fun; Eric Stoltz as the philosophical mime that doesn’t mind talking; and Jeremy Piven as the loud-mouth fan of Scott during his DJ-ing days (“who else can mix Elvis Costello with Public Enemy?”) are each a joy. The real knee-slapper, though, is mister Oscar-nominated actor Paul Giamatti with his one lined, prolonged make-out session in the diner. I was on the floor laughing.
Singles 8/10 | ★ ★ ★