December 6, 2004
Alex Proyas is known primarily for making big budget, high concept action films like The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998) and the recent I, Robot (2004). This is why his little seen Garage Days (2002) is something of a curious anomaly. It is a low-budget look at the trials and tribulations of an up-and-coming rock ‘n’ roll band in the tradition of Hard Core Logo (1996) and Almost Famous (2000). And like those films, it also pays tribute to its home country—in this case, Australia.
Freddy (Gurry) is the lead singer of his own rock ‘n’ roll band trying to make it big. They are a tight-knit group hungry for success but unable to get any record labels interested in their music. One night, Freddy finds the missing wallet of a big time band manager named Shad Kern (Csokas). He returns the man’s wallet and pitches his band. Kern tells him that he’ll give the band a listen if they can produce a demo tape of their music. The problem: they don’t have enough money to make one. To make matters worse, the inevitable relationship complications within the band arise: Joe (Stiller), the guitarist is cheating on his pregnant girlfriend, Kate (Stange), whom Freddy has a crush on.
Garage Days wears its stylistic influences on its sleeve. The film evokes such diverse movies as Empire Records (1995), with its upbeat enthusiasm for rock ‘n’ roll music, and Trainspotting (1996), with its extensive use of freeze frames to introduce the main characters. The snappy delivery of dialogue, sense of humour and quick editing tempo is very reminiscent of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998). Proyas drops all of these various influences (and many more) into a blender and the result is a visually busy film with a splashy primary colour scheme—the complete antithesis to his previous movies that were filled with brooding angst and gloomy gothic set designs.
Crucial to any movie like this is its soundtrack. In this respect, Garage Days flips the typical Australian cliché of quaint, aboriginal music with a hip, contemporary soundtrack that features the likes of Supergrass, The Jam and The Violent Femmes. Proyas expertly weaves all of these songs together to create a musical tapestry of sorts and this culminates in a show-stopping scene where the entire band unwittingly takes liquid ecstasy with LSD and experiences mind-bending hallucinations while sitting down to dinner with their bassist Tanya’s (Miranda) parents. She imagines her folks breaking into a Beetlejuice-style song and dance number to “Super Freak” by Rick James. It is a very funny and visually inventive scene.
There is a pretty funny gag reel of blown lines, spit takes and general zaniness that conveys the feeling that everyone had a blast making this movie.
Also included is a collection of six deleted scenes that don’t really add much to the movie and were rightly cut out.
“Garage Days Backstage Pass” is a brief Making Of featurette. Proyas talks about how he got his start making music videos for Australian bands and saw all kinds of things that inspired the content of Garage Days. Unfortunately, this is a very short look at the movie and only touches upon a few aspects of it. A missed opportunity to be sure.
“Behind The Garage Door—Interviews” is a collection of soundbites from the cast and crew that provides a bit more insight than what was in the “Backstage Pass” featurette.
Those looking for more information on how the film was put together should check out Alex Proyas’ audio commentary for the movie. He talks about how the movie was inspired by his early days in the Sydney music scene. With this film, he wanted to return to a simpler form of filmmaking after making several big budget, special effects-heavy movies like Dark City. To this end, he worked with a relatively low budget of only $6 million, which gave him complete creative freedom with the studio. This is an engaging, informative track as Proyas conveys how personal the project was for him.
It has been said that being in a band is like being married. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is also in the band, any extramarital affair has twice the ramifications. Garage Days illustrates the complicated internal dynamics of being in a band and how easily the balance of power can be upset. There is a refreshing amount of home country pride in this movie with visual references to other Aussie bands like ACDC, Inxs and Silverchair. Like, Georgia (1995), Garage Days chronicles the ups and downs of band that isn’t very good and doesn’t succeed but makes up for this with a genuine passion and love of music.