Today’s film is another one of those films that falls into the genre of “Day In The Life”, a fairly self explanatory title that includes such examples as Clerks, Clerks 2, The Breakfast Club and the recent series of films done over there at Jaded Hope. In a nutshell (not that you need one with a genre description like that), it’s a film that takes place over the course of a day and documents the zany happenings of that day. It may even only be a few hours (read Can’t Hardly Wait) or even “real time” (read Nick Of Time), but it’s one day. Today’s film is Empire Records.
Empire Records shows a day in the life of the staff of the eponymous record store. A series of mid 90’s stereotypes (and a beloved art and noise rock band) share their trials and tribulations on the final day of the store’s existence. It seems that store manager (and all around cool guy) Joe has got no choice but to sell the store and turn it into just another faceless franchise, which doesn’t sit well with zen Lucas, nice guy AJ, good girl with a secret Corey, ball of rebellious anger Deb, zany stoner type Marc, slutty wildchild Gina or all the other tattooed, spiky haired individuals at the store – but they can’t fight today..NOT ON REX MANNING DAY!
And, in addition to the instore signing of the “biggest” pop singer on the planet, the gang has to deal with their own internal struggles – AJ has to tell Corey about how he feels, all the while she wanting to throw herself at her childhood crush; Deb is just angry at the world, including the only people who seem to care about her; Lucas and Joe have to deal with Lucas accidentally gambling away the previous day’s taking and Rex Manning just has to deal with the shame of being Rex Manning. Along the way, there is a smarmy teen shoplifter to deal with, the store owner and his smarm and Gina doing what Corey couldn’t bring herself to. All the usual things, and a smattering of “let’s put on a show and save the rec center” to boot.
Granted, the fact that this film takes place in a place that is sadly going the way of the dinosaur (a brick and mortar independent record store) does kind of anchor the film to its time, unlike a lot of other films from that time, you can still go back and watch it and not cringe. I think this is because Empire Records doesn’t really wave its “mid-90s slacker” stance in your face at all times (yes, Reality Bites, I AM talking to you). Sure, the soundtrack is made up of a lot of “today’s hottest alternative hits”, and the main crew is, as I said, a series of mid 90’s stereotypes – but outside of one or two mentions, noting really screams out “hey, we are hip, urban teens living for the now in this crazy decade”. OK, OK, maybe the cast – who are made up of a very “hip, mid 90’s this sort of film” group of people; Anthony LaPaglia, Liv Tyler, Ethan Embry, Robin Tunney, Debi Mazar, Rory Cochrane and even a pre-annoying Renee Zellwegger. However, all of them are pretty much at their pre-annoyance stages (or were when I first saw the film, so that is how I continue to picture them whenever I watch this), which helps a lot
This is one of those films that not only can I watch it a hundred times and not get sick of it, but if I find it on TV I have to watch it to the end, no matter where I come in. And that is all the more crazy, considering that I own the damn thing.