The "CBGB" biopic makes its U.S. premiere tonight at the Sunshine as part of the CBGB Music and Film Festival. (The movie opens Friday in theaters.)
So far, some of the reviews of the movie starring Alan Rickman as CBGB founder Hilly Kristal haven't been so kind, putting it mildly. (To date, there are four "rotten" reviews over at Rotten Tomatoes.)
At the Voice, Brian McManus turns in a review accompanied by the headline "The Year Punk Bored: CBGB Could've Been Good But..." He writes that the film is "a mostly turgid, boring-as-hell, campy slog that gets more wrong than right."
The story of Hilly’s historic club is, of course, well-trodden, but likely unknown by many more familiar with the famous logo than the fact that it’s the place The Ramones were first given a platform. CBGB misses the opportunity to educate. But its biggest sin, unlike many who performed there, is that it also misses the opportunity to entertain.
At the Daily News, veteran music writer Jim Farber tries to be diplomatic. He points out the movie's much-discussed historical inaccuracies, such as Patti Smith performing "Because the Night" at least three years before it was written.
The film is a poorly written, clumsily acted mess.
Yet, in the end, it did my heart good to see it. I thrilled to every fast reference to long-lost and beloved acts like the Mumps, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, and the Tuff Darts. More, it was warming to see any depiction of the obliterated New York of old, no matter how vaguely rendered. If, in the end, the movie gets nowhere near its core mission of bringing back punk’s essential passion, it delivers its putrid outlines with loving accuracy.
The most savage review came last Monday via Marc Campbell, the vocalist for the Nails, in a post at Dangerous Minds titled "If You Thought CBGB's Bathrooms Were Full of Shit Check Out the Movie."
Among his many grenades:
• "CBGB really really sucks shit."
• "Fortunately, I can’t imagine CBGB finding an audience willing to spend a dime on this glob of pustulating spit."
• "From a hectoring, shrewish Patti Smith ... to a pathetically sexless Iggy Pop or Lou Reed, looking like a cross between Eminem and the Pillsbury Doughboy, or the tight-ass actress playing Debbie Harry with absolutely no feel for the delightfully clunky, self-aware, sex-kitten charm of the Bowery’s platinum blondie, this movie manages to suck all of the rock ‘n’ roll magic out of every single performer it supposedly celebrates."
The review prompted positive responses about the film in the comments from Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome and founding Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. (Spin covered that here.)
And here's a closing thought about trying to capture all this via a piece on the film in The New York Times yesterday:
"It's virtually impossible to capture a Hollywood version of punk," said Handsome Dick Manitoba, the frontman for the original punk band the Dictators and the owner of a punk bar, Manitoba’s, in the East Village who also works as a satellite-radio D.J. "The only way to do it is with a documentary."